Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

The main verb is sub-divided into two classes – Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

A verb is Transitive if the action does not stop with the deer (Subject) but passes from the doer to some other person or thing called the object.

In other words, a verb that takes an object to complete the sense is called a Transitive Verb. e.g. They helped me. We beat the dog. She teaches us English.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

A verb is Intransitive when the action stops with the doer (Subject) and does not pass to some other person or thing called the object, or when it expresses a state of being.

In other words, a verb that does not take an object is called an Intransitive verb. e.g. She plays in the field. They go to school. Does the baby sleep?

Uses of Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Most verbs can be used both as Transitive and intransitive verbs

  • The rain stopped playing.
  • He speaks a little Hindi.
  • He rang the bell.
  • This horse kicked the dog.
  • I feel pain all over my body
  • They sank the barge.
  • We must fight the enemy.
  • The rain has stopped.
  • She spoke for forty minutes.
  • The calling bell rings.
  • This horse never kicks.
  • How do you feel today?
  • My feet sank into the mud, Wood does not sink in water.
  • The two dogs were fighting over a bone.

Transitive Verbs

Most Transitive verbs take a single object. Such verbs are called Monotransitive verbs.


  • She cut the cake with a knife.
  • They blew up the bridge.

Many Transitive verbs such as to give, ask, pay, lend,” read, write, promise, offer, tell, etc. take two objects, one denoting a thing, and another a person. Such verbs are called Ditransitive verbs.


  • He told us a story.
  • I will read you the letter,
  • Put him this question.
  • He allows himself no rest.
The Object which denotes a thing is called the Direct Object (DO).
The Object which denotes a person is called the Indirect Object (IO).

Some monotransitive verbs require some word/words to make the prediction (sense) complete. The additional word/words by which the sense is made complete is called the (Objective) Complement. The complement may be a noun/a noun phrase/a noun clause/an adjective) a participle) a preposition with its object/an infinitive/an adverb.

NounWenamedour youngest daughterSumi.
Noun PhraseTheyvotedhimSportsman of the year.
Noun ClauseYouhave madeherwhat she is.
AdjectiveThe jocker
the prisoner
the meeting
ParticipleThe jokersentuslaughing.
A Preposition with an objectThe sightfilledus allwith pleasure.
InfinitiveIwantthe boysto be punished.
AdverbTheyfoundthe manalive.


(i) Generally the verbs of naming (call, name, term, etc.), thinking (consider, believe, suppose, think, etc.) making (make, appoint, create, etc.) take objective complements:

  • They called Ram a liar.
  • He terms the offer as unacceptable.
  • I consider him a rogue.
  • Do you believe him innocent?
  • I think it is unreasonable.
  • They appointed (elected) him the President.
  • We made him our captain.

(ii) Some other verbs also take objective complements:

  • He painted the door blue.
  • I deem it my duty to help him.
  • The fridge keeps the beer cool.
  • The policeman got the traffic moving.

(iii) Monotransitive verbs that require a complement are called the Transitive Verbs of Incomplete Predication. Such verbs are also called Facultative Verbs.

“There are two ways in which Transitives can become Intransitive” (Nesfield)

(1) When the verb is used in such a general sense that no object or objects are thought of in using it:-

  • Men eat to live.
  • A blind man cannot see.
  • This knife won’t cut.
  • A fire is burning in the grate.

(ii) When the Reflexive pronoun is omitted.

  • She drew (herself) near me.
  • Move (yourself) forward.

NOTE: Transitions can be used intransitively when they are used quasi-passively; Prof. Sinha’s books sell well.

Intransitive Verbs

Intransitive verbs which do not make complete sense by themselves, but require some other words or words to make the sense complete are called Intransitive Verbs of Incomplete Predication. Such verbs are also called Copulative Verbs (verbs that link the subject to the complement).

Intransitive Verbs of Incomplete Predication usually express the idea of being (He is a good man), becoming (She became a teacher), seeming, or appearing (He seems ill/ He looks tired). The complement may be a Noun/ an Adjectivel a Participle/ a Preposition with an object/an Infinitive / an Adverb / a Noun Clause.

NounA cowisa domestic animal.
AdjectiveThe skygrewdark.
ParticipleThe managerseemspleased.
Preposition with objectThe bookisof much importance.
InfinitiveThe flowerseemsto be fading.
AdverbThe boyfellasleep.
ClauseThe resultsarewhat we expected.


(1) The word or words that an Intransitive verb of Incomplete Predication requires to make the sense complete are called the Subjective Complement because they relate to the subject (i.e they complete the subject.) – He seems tired. Here tired relates to (or completes) the subject.

(ii) The complement to the Transitive Verbs in the Passive Voice is also called the Subjective Complement;

  • He was made king (Here the complement king relates to the subject he and is, therefore, a Subjective Complement.)
  • The house has been set in order. (Here the complement “in order” relates to the subject “the house” and is therefore a Subjective Complement).

Intransitive Verbs sometimes take after them an object akin or similar in meaning to the verb. Such an object is called the Cognate Object.

In the sentence “He lives a happy life” life is a cognate object because its meaning is similar to the meaning of the verb ‘lives’.

Further Examples of Cognate Objects:

  • She sighed a deep sigh.
  • He laughed a hearty laugh.
  • I dreamt a strange dream.
  • I slept a sound sleep.
  • She sang sweet songs.
  • He ran a race.
  • He died a heroic death.
  • He fought a good fight.

Examples of partially Cognate Objects:

  • He went a long way.
  • He fought a good battle.
  • He struck a blow.
  • He ran a great risk ( = He ran a course of great risk).
  • She breathed her last (breath ).
  • He did his best (doing).
  • He tried his best (attempt).

A noun used adverbially to modify a verb is called an Adverbial Object or Adverbial Accusative; as-

  • We walked ten miles.
  • I lived five years in London.
  • She has gone home.
  • She swam a mile.
  • The book cost eighty rupees.

When an Intransitive verb is used in a causative sense it becomes Transitive

A kite flies in the skyThe boy flies a kite.
Potatoes grow in the field.He grows potatoes in the field.
The horse walksHe walks the horse.

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