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Verbs: intransitive and transitive

Most verbs in English belong to either of two types: intransitive verbs or transitive verbs.

Intransitive verbs

An intransitive verb does not have an object. You can use it without having to add any more words to the sentence. Here are some examples of intransitive verbs:                                                       
  • Something’s happening.
  • I’ll wait.
  • It doesn’t matter.
You can add other words to these sentences in order to show meanings such as time, place, or manner, but these words do not have to be there for the sentence to make sense.

  • Something’s happening in the street.
  • I’ll wait for a few minutes.
  • It doesn’t matter at all.
Other intransitive verbs include appear, come, go, smile, lie, and rise.
Intransitive verbs cannot be used in the passive.

!   Don’t say ‘it was happened’ or ‘they were died’. Say it happened or they died.

Transitive verbs

A transitive verb must have an object. Without the object, the sentence does not make sense. The object of the verb is usually a noun, a noun phrase, or a pronoun. Here are some examples of transitive verbs:
  • She bought that dress in Tokyo. NOT She bought in Tokyo.
  • Did you find the key? NOT Did you find?
  • I really like him. NOT I really like.
Sometimes the object is a clause which begins + (that). For example:

  • I wish she would stop smoking.  OR I wish  that she would stop smoking.
Sometimes the object is a whole sentence. For example:

  • “It’s time to go home,” he said.
Other transitive verbs include make, use, need, thank, enjoy, keep, and carry.


Several verbs can be used in a transitive or intransitive way. Here are some examples of verbs that can be transitive or intransitive:
  • There’s no need to shout. [Intransitive]
  • Someone shouted my name. [Transitive]
  • Where do you want to meet? [Intransitive]
  • I’ll meet you outside the school. [Transitive]
  • I’m sorry. I don’t understand. [Intransitive]
  • She didn’t understand his explanation. [Transitive]

The intransitive uses are very similar to the transitive ones, except that the object been left out.


Some verbs can be followed by an adjective or adjective phrase. Here are some examples of these verbs:
  • You seem tired. 
  • It all sounds very interesting. 
  • Was he angry?

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English 5th Edition
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