Difference Between Transitive and Intransitive Verb (With Table)

As more and more people seek employment opportunities beyond the boundaries of their country, becoming multi-lingual is now a necessity. English is the most widely spoken language in global companies and businesses, therefore, being well-conversant in English can be a feather to your hat. But it takes dedication and an eye for detail to learn a language. New English speakers often get confused between verbs, prepositions, conjunctions, or adverbs. Especially, verbs are so tricky that even fluent speakers often get confused between transitive and intransitive verbs.

Transitive Verb vs Intransitive Verb

The difference between transitive and intransitive verb is that while a transitive verb is an action verb that has an object (direct or indirect), an intransitive verb is an action verb that does not have an object. A transitive verb needs an object to give meaning to the sentence. An intransitive verb makes perfect sense when used without an object.

A transitive verb is a verb that expresses an action that takes place and is followed by an object, without which the sentence would not make sense. Transitive verbs are generally used in the construction of passive sentences. For instance, “Sonya fries the chicken”. In this sentence, the verb is ‘fries’ and it is followed by an object, that is, ‘chicken’. The sentence would have remained incomplete without the object.

An intransitive verb is a verb that expresses an action that takes place but is not followed by an object. The sentence makes complete sense even without it. Sentences with intransitive verbs in them are not quite complex. For instance, “Ronita cried.” The verb in this sentence is ‘cried’ and is not accompanied by an object. The sentence is clear and delivers the intended message without using an object.

Comparison Table Between Transitive and Intransitive Verb

Parameters of ComparisonTransitive VerbIntransitive Verb
MeaningIt is a verb that expresses an action that takes place and is accompanied by an objectIt is a verb that expresses an action that takes place but is not followed by an object
ObjectIt is followed by an object which is either direct or indirectIt is not followed by an object
Question that Object AnswersThe object that follows the verb answers the question Where? or What?There is no object in the sentence but a word or phrase that follows the verb and answers the question How?
Role of VerbThe verb in the sentence gives motion to the objectAn intransitive verb is used in a sentence to describe the “condition of”
Passive VoiceA sentence that has a transitive verb in it can be turned into passive voiceSentences with the intransitive verb cannot be turned into passive voice

What is Transitive Verb?

A transitive verb is said to be transitive in nature because the verb that expresses an action sets the object that follows it into motion. The sentence structure in this regard is- subject + verb + object (direct or indirect).

For example, “Vicky broke the plates”. In this sentence the subject is ‘Vickey’, ‘broke’ is the transitive verb, and ‘plates’ is the object.

The object in the sentence can be a noun, noun phrase, or a pronoun. The object can be direct or indirect. A direct object is not a subject complement, this means that the object does not describe the subject. For instance, “Ramya sells flowers”. In this sentence, the object ‘flowers’ does not describe the subject ‘Ramya’.

In sentences with transitive verbs, the subject performs an action (verb) and the object receives the action. The object that follows the verb answers the question Whom? or What? For instance, “Malika left the keys”. Here, the object ‘keys’ answers the question “What did Malika leave?” For instance, “Dino took his friend along.” The object ‘friend’ answers the question, “Whom did Dino take?”

What is Intransitive Verb?

An intransitive verb is a verb that expresses action without using an object. Therefore, there is no object that receives the action in a sentence. The sentence structure with intransitive verb is- subject + verb + word/ phrase (optional).

Sometimes sentences with intransitive words use a word or phrase following the verb that answers the question “How?” For instance, “Asher slept peacefully.” In this sentence, the verb is ‘slept’ that is followed by a word ‘peacefully’. Here the word ‘peacefully’ answers the question, “How did Asher sleep?”

An intransitive verb may be followed by an adverb or a prepositional phrase but it cannot be followed by a noun, as the noun in the sentence would become the object in the sentence. On the other hand, the prepositional phrase or adverb will only add to the thought that is expressed by the verb.

There are two types of intransitive verbs- linking verb and action verb. The former does not express an action, but the latter expresses an action. The commonly used linking verbs are: is, was, am, are, were, etc.

“The cats are adorable.” In this sentence, the verb is ‘are’ and it is a linking verb as it does not express an action and only links the subject ‘cats’ with the word ‘adorable’.

“Shilpa laughed.” The verb ‘laughed’ expresses an action and is an action verb.

Main Differences Between Transitive and Intransitive Verb

  1. While a transitive verb has to be followed by an object (direct or indirect), an intransitive verb need not be accompanied by an object
  2. The transitive verb sets the following object into motion. In contrast, an intransitive word expresses an action without using any object.
  3. The sentence using a transitive word is structured as- (Siri) subject + (mailed) verb + (the certificate) object (direct or indirect).  Whereas, the sentence using an intransitive word is structured as- (Siri) subject + (cried) (verb).
  4. While the object that follows the verb answers the question Where? Or What?, an intransitive verb is used in a sentence to describe the “condition of”.
  5. The transitive verb sets the object into motion. In contrast, an intransitive word does not use an object at all.

Conclusion

While transitive and intransitive verbs are both two types of verbs, their usage is completely different from one another. While in the former a verb has to be followed by an object for the sentence to express a message, in the latter, the verb is never accompanied by an object but only a word or phrase that furthers the action being expressed by the verb.

References

  1. https://aclanthology.org/W15-4001.pdf
  2. https://www.maxwell.vrac.puc-rio.br/8504/8504.PDF
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