Transitive Verbs: Common Examples and How They Function

Gain a clear understanding of what a transitive verb is, and see how transitive verbs are used in sentences. Find out the difference between a transitive verb and an intransitive verb through transitive verb examples.

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What Is a Transitive Verb?

The word transitive sounds pretty complex, but in reality, identifying a transitive verb is not that difficult. Transitive verbs simply express action and are followed by a direct object (thing or person that receives the verb's action). While most verbs are transitive verbs, explore a few common examples.

ate

borrow

bring

buy

clean

discuss

feed

gave

hug

left

offer

praise

prime

promise

send

tease

want

write

Intransitive vs. Transitive Verbs

So, what are intransitive verbs? These verbs also express an action but are not followed by a direct object. Intertransitive verbs include arrive, die, leave, live and yell to name a few. See a few intransitive verbs used in a sentence.

  • The train arrives at 3 p.m.

  • Sorry, but I have to leave.

  • Susan lives on the east side of the city.

Often intransitive verbs are followed by prepositional phrases, or they can be followed by an adverb.

Examples of Transitive Verbs

Understanding the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs is pretty easy to master once you know the basics. To make sure you know the difference, look at some examples of transitive verbs in a sentence. The transitive verb is in bold and the direct object is underlined in each sentence.

  • Alex sent a postcard from Argentina.

  • She left the keys on the table.

  • My father took me to the movies for my birthday.

  • Please buy me a dog!

  • Minna hit Joe when the teacher turned.

  • My mom wrote me a letter for my birthday.

  • My dog ate carrots off the floor.

  • Alicia washed the dishes after dinner.

  • Grandpa loaded the dishwasher for my mom.

  • The cat ate the mouse before we could stop her.

In each of the examples, the subject performs an action, and there is an object that receives the action. The direct object answers the question, "What?" or "Whom?" And, without the use of a direct object, the sentence would make no sense.

  • Alex sent what? A postcard.

  • She left what? The keys.

  • My father took whom? Me.

  • Buy what? A dog

Additionally, transitive verbs can have an indirect object before the direct object, like “Please buy me a dog!” The indirect object me is right before the direct object, a dog.

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Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

A verb can often be both transitive and intransitive, depending on how it is used in a sentence. See a few different examples of what this might look like.

  • She usually leaves the books on the table. (transitive)
    The train sometimes leaves early on Sunday. (intransitive)

  • Delia walked the dog to the park. (transitive)
    To get to the show, she walked. (intransitive)

  • Mia cheered the team on to victory (transitive)
    At the concert, they cheered. (intransitive)

  • I play the piano. (transitive)
    We play outside. (intransitive)

Remembering Transitive Verbs Quick Tip

Sometimes it can be hard to remember what type of verb you are working with. This is especially true when it comes to transitive and intransitive verbs. However, if you remember that transitive verbs transfer their meaning to the direct object, they can be a little easier to understand.

  • She carried the bag home. (What was carried? The bag.)

  • After the presentation, Joseph thanked Tatyana. (Who got thanked? Tatyana)

Once you start thinking of transitive as transferring the meaning, things get more simple!

Understanding Transitive Verbs

So, what's the fuss all about? Why is it important to know the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs? Understanding the different functions of these two verbs can help students avoid mistakes such as incomplete sentences. Now that you have a handle transitive verbs, you can check out basic English verb tenses.