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Transitive and intransitive verbs

What are they and how are they used ?


Explained as simply as possible 

Sample verbs
Always transitive: to bring,  to make, to take, to tell,
     Always intransitive :  to arrive, to die, to emerge, to exist, to fall,  to sleep

 The problem is that many verbs can be either  transitive or intransitive, depending on context.

  Verbs that can be either : to give,  to burn,  to live, to play, to smell, to write

Transitive verbs in use

Here are examples of the transitive verb make used in natural contexts. See how it is used in different structures - in statements and in questions, in the affirmative and the negative, and in active and passive contexts.

Mary made the biggest cake.
Mary didn't make the biggest cake.
Did Mary make the biggest cake?
Didn't Mary make the biggest cake?
The biggest cake was made by Mary.
Was the biggest cake made by Mary?
Wasn't the biggest cake made by Mary?
Transitive verbs cannot be used in the active voice without a direct object. We cannot say Mary made. Without a direct object a transitive active sentence has no meaning.

Intransitive verbs in use

Here are examples of the intransitive verb arrive used in natural contexts. See how it is used in different structures - in statements and in questions, in the affirmative and the negative... but never in the passive. (Note: in these examples on time is an adverb phrase, it is not a direct object).
The train arrived on time.
The train didn't arrive on time.
Did the train arrive on time?
Didn't the train arrive on time?
Intransitive verbs cannot be followed by a direct object, and they cannot be used in the passive.
While we can say The train arrived. , we cannot say The train was arrived nor The train wasn't arrived.

Verbs that can be either transitive or intransitive depending on their context


A large number of verbs can be used transitively, with a direct object, or intransitively without an object. For example we can say:
The children are playing football, or
The children are playing.
The verb play has a meaning whether it is followed by a direct object, like football, or not followed by any direct object.

Here are some more examples
The goalkeeper stopped the ball
The clock stopped.
He's just opened a new restaurant in Tokyo
A new restaurant has opened.
He's read all the Harry Potter books.
He cannot read without his glasses.
I'm growing tomatoes in a pot in my kitchen.
These tomatoes just won't grow.



Other verb pages :   ▲The infinitive   ▲   Split infinitives   ▲ Present perfect or Compound past?
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