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Difference Between Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

english wordsTransitive vs Intransitive Verbs

It can be difficult to describe the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs, even if you can recognize them when they are used in a sentence. Being able to identify them, and use them correctly, is part of being able to represent yourself well in speech and in writing.

Remember that since a verb offers action, there is the implication that there is something in the sentence that is empowered by the action. Defining the main difference between the intransitive and the transitive has everything to do with whether or not there is an object that is receiving that empowerment. If there is an object, it qualifies as a transitive verb. If there is no object, then it qualifies as an intransitive verb.

Think of the root word, transit, and apply it to the verb. If the verb is transiting action to an object, or if the verb has no object to give the transiting to, it will determine what type of verb you are using.

A transitive verb is responsible for giving the action specifically and directly to the object. For example, a simple sentence like: “She mailed the package”, is comprised of the transitive verb (mailed), which offers direct empowerment to the object (package) in a straightforward manner.

A transitive verb can also indicate action through an indirect object. The indirect object is indicative of intention. For instance: “She mailed Jennifer the package”, is indicative of empowering the object to take action while also clarifying for whom the package was intended.

Intransitive verbs are not indicative of empowering an object. “You eat too much.” This sentence has nothing to do with giving motion to an object, but the verb is still describing a direct action and the condition of that action. In this case, the verb (eat) is describing the condition (too much) as a qualitative factor.

It’s not the actual verb that defines whether the verb is transitive or intransitive, but the direct implication of an object or condition. Often you can use verbs that will easily qualify as both. “I sing frequently” is an intransitive verb because there is no object to empower. “I sing pop songs” is a transitive verb because there is an object to empower.


1. Transitive verbs give motion to the object.

2. Intransitive verbs do not have an object.

3. Intransitive verbs are used for sentences describing the ‘condition of’.

4. Transitive verbs are used for sentences that describe the object’s action.

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    When he was cutting lumber, my father USED a table saw

  2. Just thought you might like to investigate the verb “comprise”.
    My understanding is it used to mean “consists of “. For example “the United States comprises fifty separate states”—not “is comprised of”. I guess we might be losing this battle just as we did with infer/imply (“I infer from what you are saying” vs.”you imply by what you are saying”) but still…

  3. What about the word wait, as is to serve.

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