This lesson covers transitive verbs. Learn how to define and identify these kinds of verbs with the aid of examples, and discover the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs. Then take a quiz to test your understanding.
Transitive Verbs and Other Types of Speech
In grade school, you learned about different kinds of words. Persons, places, things and ideas are called nouns. The words that describe nouns are called adjectives. Verbs indicate what ‘happens’ to nouns in the course of a given statement, whether spoken or written.
This is common knowledge for most of us. But you may not have realized that verbs can be further broken down into distinct types, according to their specific function within sentences. This lesson will cover one of these types: the transitive verb.A transitive verb is defined as an action verb that takes an object. Think about elementary school one more time.
You probably learned that verbs can fall under two categories: linking verbs and action verbs. Before we can really hope to understand transitive verbs, though, we should take a minute to review linking and action verbs.
Linking Verbs Versus Action Verbs
Linking verbs only serve to connect the subject of the sentence (the person, place, thing or idea that the sentence is about) to some other word that describes the subject. Linking verbs tend to take a certain form of a limited number of verbs like ‘to be,’ ‘to seem’ and ‘to appear.’ An example of a sentence containing a linking verb is: Joe is a blacksmith. In this sentence, nothing is happening to Joe.
He is not doing anything. The point of the verb is (a form of the verb ‘to be’) is simply to link the subject Joe to a word that describes him, in this case blacksmith.Action verbs, on the other hand, indicate that some action is taking place to the subject of the sentence. The sentence Joe melts iron does not simply show that Joe is a blacksmith, but that he is doing something related to blacksmithing. He is melting iron.Action verbs show that nouns are doing something, as in the sentence, The man is walking. If the man is doing something, like walking, then the verb is an action verb.
On the other hand, if a sentence reads, The man seems Belgian, then nothing is happening to the man, nor is he doing anything to anything else. He just seems like a Belgian. Therefore this sentence contains a linking verb.
Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
Now that we understand the difference between a linking verb and an action verb, we can focus on two types of action verbs: transitive verbs and intransitive verbs.
A transitive verb is a certain kind of action verb that takes an object, as in the sentence: Joe melts iron. In other words, melts is a transitive verb because its subject (Joe) is performing a specific action on a given object (iron).You may be asking yourself, ‘Aren’t all action verbs transitive? Don’t they all perform an action on something?’ The answer is no. For example, you can always say that Joe melts. In this case, Joe is performing an action (he is melting), but Joe is not performing an action on something particular. He is not performing an action on iron, as in the previous example: Joe is melting iron. If he were, then the verb melting would be considered a transitive verb.
When action verbs are not used in order to indicate an action toward a particular object, then the verb is considered intransitive. An example of a sentence containing an action verb that is intransitive would be Joe melts. Here are some other examples:The blacksmith walks.Sue is talking.In either case, the subject of the sentence is performing an action.
The blacksmith is doing the walking, and Sue is doing the talking. However, neither the blacksmith nor Sue are doing something to anyone or anything else in particular. They are simply performing an action.
Is it Transitive?
There are just a few cases where it is difficult to tell whether a verb is used transitively or not.
One case involves the use of prepositional phrases. Take the sentence, Joe walks in the park. You might think that in the park is the object of the verb walk, but it’s not. The phrase in the park is a prepositional phrase, or a series of words including a preposition (like ‘in,’ ‘on,’ ‘about’ and many others) and an object of the preposition (or any noun following a preposition).In this example, the noun park is the object of the preposition in. A word cannot be the object of a preposition and the object of a verb, at the same time. So, ‘walks’ is not a transitive verb in this case.
Let’s look at some other examples of prepositional phrases.at the ballgameabout the bookin the zooIn all of these cases, there is no object that the verb takes action on. The prepositional phrase simply describes where the action takes place.Another case where it is sometimes difficult to know whether a verb is transitive or not is when an adverb follows the verb. Take the sentence, Joe walks quickly.
Quickly is not the object of the verb; it simply describes how Joe is walking. Keep in mind that objects can only be nouns, whether singular or plural. They cannot be adverbs or prepositional phrases (both of which describe the verb).The following sentence contains a transitive action verb with multiple objects: Joe eats chicken and shrimp.
In this case, the transitive verb eats indicates that Joe is doing something to the chicken and to the shrimp. He is eating both. Therefore, there can be more than one object of a transitive verb. However, if there are no objects involved, and if the verb is simply describing where or how an action is taking place, then the verb is being used intransitively, as in these examples:Joe eats at a restaurant.Joe eats quickly.
Joe eats daily at noon.
Transitive verbs are action verbs that indicate that the subject of the sentence is doing something to an object. An object is a specific noun (or person, place, thing or idea) that the subject does something to. However, an object that simply indicates where or how an action takes place is not a transitive verb. In other words, verbs followed by prepositional phrases or adverbs are not classified as transitive verbs; they are intransitive verbs.