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In this lesson, we’ll review the definition of a verb. Then, we’ll look closer at action verbs and the two main types of these action verbs. Finally, you will be able to determine the difference between a transitive verb and an intransitive verb.

What Is a Verb?

Every form of communication centers on some sort of action.

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No sentence is complete without it. A verb is exactly that: the action in a sentence. Look at the following sentence:The boy jumped.What is the action? You would likely respond that ‘jumped’ is the action, which is entirely correct.

In that example, ‘jumped’ is the verb. It explains the action of the boy, who is the subject of this simple sentence. There are a few different types of verbs besides action, but for the purpose of this lesson, we’ll stick with action verbs.

Types of Action Verbs

There are two types of action verbs: intransitive and transitive.

A transitive verb must have a complement, or a noun that immediately follows it. We call that noun the direct object. Intransitive verbs, on the other hand, have no direct object. Look at the sentence from earlier:The boy jumped.We have already established that the verb is ‘jumped.’ Is there an object that immediately follows the verb? No, there is not.

So, this verb is an intransitive verb. It has no direct object. Now look at the next example:The boy threw the ball.

First, ask yourself what is the action of this sentence? What did the boy do? He threw. ‘Threw’ is the verb. Now ask, is there a noun directly after the verb? Yes, there is. What did the boy throw? The ball. Direct objects answer the question ‘what?’ Therefore, this sentence has a direct object, and ‘threw’ is a transitive verb.

Look at these examples. For each one, check to see if there is a direct object.Susan ran. (no direct object, intransitive verb)Susan ran a mile. (direct object is ‘mile,’ transitive verb)Tim ate.

(no direct object, intransitive verb)Tim ate lunch. (direct object is ‘lunch,’ transitive verb)

Complex Sentences

Don’t be fooled when sentences are much longer than the earlier examples. You only need to check to see if there is a noun immediately following the verb. If there are any other words mixed in, then it is not a true direct object. For example, look at the following sentence:The boy jumped over the fence and fell into a puddle.

In that sentence, there are nouns that follow the verb ‘jumped’ (‘fence’ and ‘puddle’). However, the nouns do not directly follow the verb. Just having the word ‘over’ between the noun and verb means that there is no direct object, and thus, it is an intransitive verb. Make sure that you only check for words after the verb.

Transitive verbs must have a noun, and they must be directly after the verb. Let’s look at one final example from the earlier examples:Susan ran a mile.What is the action? Ran. Is there a direct object? If you remember seeing this sentence earlier, the direct object is ‘mile,’ making this verb transitive. Do not think that because the word ‘a’ is technically directly after the verb, that ‘mile’ is no longer a direct object.

The words ‘the,’ ‘a,’ and ‘an’ are always attached to nouns. So, ignore them when determining direct objects.

Lesson Summary

An action verb is the word in a sentence that expresses the action (or doing) of the subject. The two types of action verbs are transitive and intransitive. Transitive verbs have a direct object or a noun that immediately follows the verb, while intransitive verbs do not contain a direct object.

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