The word “transitive” sounds pretty complex, but in reality identifying a transitive verb is not that difficult. Transitive verbs simply express an action and are followed by a direct object (thing or person that receives the action of the verb).
Let’s first look at a some examples of transitive verbs in a sentence:
In each of the examples above the subject performs an action and there is an object that receives the action. Followed by the verb, the direct object answers the question What? or Whom?
Transitive verbs, though, can have an indirect object before the direct object (see example #4 above). The indirect object “me” is right before the direct object “a dog.”
What's wrong with the sentences below?
Without the use of a direct object the sentences above make no sense.
So, what are intransitive verbs? These verbs also express an action, but are not followed by a direct object.
Often intransitive verbs are followed by prepositional phrases or they can be followed by an adverb.
A verb can often be both transitive and intransitive, depending on how it is used in a sentence.
In the first example, the verb leave is transitive because it is followed by a direct object (books). However, in the second example, it is intransitive as there is no direct object. It is followed by a prepositional phrase (early on Sunday).
So, what’s the fuss all about? Why is it important to know the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs? Well, understanding the different functions of these two verbs can help students avoid mistakes such as incomplete sentences.