Using Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

by | May 14, 2022 | GrammarSpot | 0 comments

I love getting into the nitty-gritty grammar stuff. The picky stuff. The we-seriously-have-rules-for-that? stuff. Transitive and intransitive verbs are just that. We actually took verbs, cut them down the middle and gave them names. Why? To give eighth-grade teachers something for their pop quizzes.

OK, that and the fact that it really does matter for your writing to know the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs.


What are Transitive Verbs?

what does transitive mean

Here’s a good trick I learned when trying to identify transitive verbs: TRANSitive verbs have to TRANSfer their actions to something. They can’t just stand alone. They get lonely. They are the needy, clingy teenager of verbs. If they don’t have an object after them, they simply don’t make sense. In teenager terms, transitive verbs literally can’t even.

Time to show you what I mean.


Transitive Verb Examples

No: He filled.

No: She carried.

No: They thanked.

Yes: He filled the car with gas.

Yes: She carried the dumbbells across the room.

Yes: They thanked each other for the gifts.

See? Transitive verbs need their objects. They love them.


Intransitive Verbs

difference between transitive and intransitive verbs

I bet you can guess where this is going, right? Intransitive verbs are like, “Pssshh, I don’t need an object.” Intransitive verbs are like Danny Zuko when he sees Sandy at school for the first time after summer. (Man, he was COLD.) If you aren’t a fan of “Grease,” I first suggest you change your mind on that, and secondly, here are some non-musical examples to show you what I mean:


Intransitive Verb Examples

Yes: He laughed.

Yes: She cried.

You can add phrases on to these intransitive verbs in your content writing, but you wouldn’t simply add an object:

No: She cried the pillow.

Yes: She cried into the pillow.


Pulling Double Duty

how to identify transitive and intransitive verbs

To top it all off, there are verbs that can be transitive and intransitive:

Yes: She sang.

Yes: She sang, “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”

Yes: They cheered.

Yes: They cheered the romance.


Transitive and Intransitive Verbs: What Does It All Mean?

How do you apply this knowledge of transitive and intransitive verbs to your content writing? Generally, you just want to make sure your writing makes sense. If you use a transitive verb, don’t leave it hanging. Do you have any tips for how to identify transitive and intransitive verbs? Let us know in the comments section below.


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