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Transitive and intransitive verbs. Errrm...

5 replies

ILoveAFullFridge · 09/12/2013 09:32

Please explain transitive and intransitive to me. Preferably without using the expression "verbs that take an object" because I can't get my head around object/subject/direct object/indirect object, either!

Maybe if I understand one I'll understand the other?

OP posts:
prism · 09/12/2013 12:39

Intransitive verbs are for where an action just happens, without any need to say who or what it happened to. If it's an action that you can do to something else, it's transitive. "Die" is an intransitive verb- you can kill someone, but you can't die them. They just die. Equally "kill" is basically only a transitive verb.

Intransitive verbs tend to become transitive as well, though usage, so for instance I'd say that "flow" is an intransitive verb, because it's only meant to be used about water or current or whatever flowing, by itself without anyone or anything doing the flowing- you can pour the water, but it flows of its own accord: however modern typography has brought about the use of "flow" as a transitive verb, as in "flow the text round the image".

These days there aren't many verbs that are used exclusively one way or the other, and for instance dictionaries will tell you that "kill" is intransitive as well, in certain circumstances.

prism · 09/12/2013 12:41

Note- I realise I meant to say "without any need to say who or what made it happen". Duh.

DeckTheHallsWithBoughsOfHorry · 09/12/2013 13:54

That's a pretty good explanation. Intransitive verbs just happen; transitive verbs have to happen to something/someone.

Interestingly, "like" seems to be going the wrong way. Casually we can say "I like" as a whole sentence without our brains screaming at us to finish what we are saying.

If it helps you can think about mono- and ditransitive verbs... Ditransitive verbs have to have two things after, eg "give" has to have a given thing and a givee as well as a giver.

John gave the red ball to his brother.

TwoCatsInTheYard · 20/12/2013 08:48

May I ask a question? Is a transitive verb still transitive if the object is not there (an implied object?)?

For example: John is a hunter. He kills.

Does this make kill intransitive as there is no object in the sentence. Is it still transitive because their is an object (prey) even though it is not explicitly stated in the sentence? Iis the sentence incorrect without an object?

Sixtiesqueen · 27/01/2014 20:51

Yes. The object is elliptical.

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