Transitive and intransitive verbs have different rules when you use them to make sentences.
1. The boss surprised his workteam. TRANSITIVE VERB
2. The boss smiled. INTRANSITIVE VERB
A transitive verb needs a direct object to make a complete sentence.
She likes. (Incorrect)
She likes ice cream. (Correct)
I have invited. (Incorrect)
I have invited him. (Correct)
The verb ‘like’ needs a direct object – in these examples ‘icecream’ (noun) and ‘him’ (pronoun) to make sense and to form a complete sentence. The direct object of a transitive verb is something that ‘receives the action’ of that verb.
An intransitive verb does not take a direct object. For example:
He arrived. (Correct)
You can add more information to the sentence above.
For example: ‘He arrived half an hour late’.
‘half an hour late’ is NOT the direct object of ‘arrived’ though. It is a noun phrase that acts as an adverb. It doesn’t ‘receive the action’, it adds extra information by describing when the man arrived.
More information about transitive and intransitive verbs
Some verbs can act as both transitive and intransitive verbs.
The All Blacks won. Correct (this sentence is grammatically complete)
The All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup. Correct (the Rugby World Cup is the object of the verb ‘won’)
Some transitive verbs can be followed by two objects (one direct and one indirect object).
- Sam bought Jane some chocolates.
- Send me the report when you’ve finished it.
Are the verbs highlighted in the sentences below used as TRANSITIVE verbs or INTRANSITIVE verbs?
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Can you close the door on your way out please?CorrectIncorrect
The post office closes at 5.30 so I need to go now and post this parcel.CorrectIncorrect
We had fun at the party – we all sang and danced all night.CorrectIncorrect
We used to sing hymns at morning assembly when I was at primary school.CorrectIncorrect
We have been running our business for 15 years now.CorrectIncorrect
I run along the beach every morning.CorrectIncorrect
The film starts at 8pm.CorrectIncorrect
I don’t like Sam – he always starts arguments with people for no reason.CorrectIncorrect
I can speak four different languages.CorrectIncorrect
Please be quiet, the Prime Minister is speaking.CorrectIncorrect