Basic Rules about Transitive and Intransitive Verbs


Quality academic writing always starts with proper grammar skills. Unless a student is able to operate with various sentence structures and employ terms in their right meaning, writing success is not guaranteed; moreover, it is very unlikely to happen. That is why today’s post by our college essay editing service is devoted to an important aspect of English grammar: the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs. Having learnt these basic rules, you will be able to handle both types of verbs in essays and successfully avoid mistakes.

Transitive and intransitive verbs

To find out whether a verb is transitive or intransitive, you should examine how it is connected with other words in the sentence, namely it is important to look for an object. If it is present, the verb passes its meaning through to this word, and therefore acquires transitivity. In other words, something gets affected by the verb’s action. Look at these examples:

  • Sue was reading (what?) an absorbing book on British history.
  • The girl looked at the window and immediately saw that somebody had drawn (what?) a picture there with red lipstick.
  • I could see (whom?) beautiful girls who held dark blue flowers in their delicate hands.
  • John handed (what?) his schoolbag (to whom?) to me and told (whom?) me to wait for him in the backyard.

Each of these sentences has a transitive verb which in turn has either a direct or indirect object. No matter which object is present in a sentence, it still makes the verb transitive. The difference between direct and indirect objects is that the first group is connected to the verb in a way to be directly affected by the verb’s action, while the second one only benefits from the action, but does not experience it directly. Examples will clarify this further on:

  • Jim builthis wife a three-storied mansion with windows overlooking the river. In this sentence Jim is the subject, built is the predicate, his wife is an indirect object and a three-storied mansion is a direct object. Why so? It is the mansion that was built, which means that the mansion is directly affected by the verb’s action, whereas Jim’s wife is only the receiver. She benefits from the action, but Jim did not do anything with her in particular.
  • I didn’t like eating noodle soup, but that day I had no choice. Was noodle soup eaten by me? Yes, it was, which makes noodle soup a direct object. But let’s look at this from another perspective:
  • I didn’t like eating with a fork. Did I eat the fork? No, I didn’t, hence there is no direct object in this sentence.

As for intransitive verbs in English, they have neither direct nor indirect objects. They exist in a sentence on their own, being meaningful enough to convey an idea without additional words. For instance:

  • Lucy ran and jumped on the playground for more than 30 minutes.
  • Our puppy is so cute, and it sleeps almost the whole day.
  • I cried in astonishment right away.

In a couple of seconds we will move on to examples of verbs that can change from transitive into intransitive and vice versa, but before that we would like to present some useful articles from our company’s educational blog that will come in handy for students of all years:

Some verbs in the English language can gain or lose their transitivity depending on the context. Here we will provide you with several clear examples.

  • The students were singingcarols happily. Singing (what?) carols – the verb is transitive.
  • The students were singing loudly. There is not any object in this sentence, which makes the verbs singing intransitive.
  • She wanted to leavethe apartment as soon as possible. – Transitive.
  • She wanted to leave as soon as possible. – Intransitive.
  • A group of people studied English every Saturday. – Transitive.
  • A group of people gathered together and studied. – Intransitive.

The main goal of using verbs in academic English

Now you know everything there is to know about transitive and intransitive verbs, but what about verbs in general? We will dwell on the peculiarities of using them in academic English.

Any text will not be complete without verbs in it, but academic essays employ this part of speech for a very particular reason (every professional essay proofreader knows all about it, and you can check yours by using this guide: When a student quotes somebody else’s work, for instance, it is appropriate to use verbs like “to say,” “to point out,” “to discover” and so on, but what tense should you pick? We will find it out as soon as we get to the bottom of the question: what is the main role of verbs in academic texts?

As a rule, their function will be described by one of the following options:

  • Verbs can report information: outline what we already know by this time in present. Although it may seem that Present Perfect or Past Simple should be used in this case, usually in academic English the preference goes to the Present Simple Tense (you can learn more about it in our guide to present tenses). The focus must be on the information itself, not on the time when it was discovered. Since the information is true right now, it is OK to present it in the present tense.
  • Verbs can build assumptions, and here the Conditional Mood takes over. If an essay author wants to put forward a hypothesis, there is no easier way to do it than to opt for an appropriate form of the Conditional Mood. If you do not know how to do it, do not forget that our copy editing and proofreading website is at your service.
  • When you want to introduce a research conducted by other scientist, verbs will help summarize his or her discoveries. As we mentioned above, the information can be conveyed in Present Simple, but it is better to talk about methods in past tenses. Thus, it is better to say that John Doe “found out that…,” “mentioned in this study,” or “came to the conclusion that…” Now the question that we introduced earlier is answered, and we can move on to the types of verbs in English, which is too closely connected with the main subject of this post.

Other types of verbs

Even free online essay proofreaders know that there exist several types of classification when it comes to dividing English verbs into groups, and their transitivity is only one of the features for the division. Other methods of classification include:

  • regular and irregular verbs (to travel – traveled – traveled and to fit – fit –fit);
  • main and auxiliary verbs (to listen as opposed to to be);
  • state and action verbs (to possess vs to watch);
  • physical and mental verbs (to run vs to contemplate).

Our professional essay proofreading service reminds you that English is also abundant in phrasal verbs which consist of a verb per se and also of a preposition: to set off, to look for, to put up with. Verbs can also be part of idioms and proverbs: to call a spade a spade; to rain cats and dogs; to err is human, to forgive divine. These are not specific types of verbs, but they are worth mentioning if we speak about this part of speech.

Possible mistakes in transitive and intransitive verbs

Since our company focuses on correcting other people’s mistakes (and our rates are better than fair:, of course we could not but mention this facet in the article. And particularly the information about verbs in general that is given above is meant to help everyone avoid mistakes in using transitive and intransitive verbs. First of all, you should pay attention to the tense because being focused on transitivity does not mean you can overlook other grammar aspects. Follow the rules we described earlier and study a guide on English tenses to become an expert in the topic.

Then, students frequently confuse prepositions to and for when it comes to indirect objects used after transitive verbs. Besides, the word order is one more thing that matters.

  • Jackie paid the plumber. The plumber benefits from the action and therefore illustrates the usage of indirect objects. But if we change the sentence structure and include the amount of money, we will not succeed without some modifications:
  • Jackie paid $65 to the plumber. To becomes a must here because a direct object appears in the sentence. Keep in mind that preposition for is inappropriate in this case.
  • Simon’s wife was upset. Simon bought flowers to his wife to cheer her up. This is the correct variant of wording this sentence, while incorrect ones would include: bought flowers her, bought for his wife flowers, bought flowers his wife and so on. Popular English grammar books that we mentioned in one of our previous articles will help you always choose the right word order.

If this guide does not clarify all the aspects in the usage of transitive and intransitive verbs and you are afraid of making a mistake in them, our editing services will come to help. Professional writers will correct every case of verb misuse as well as other errors in academic essays. Quality editing and proofreading at affordable prices can be found around the clock at Royal Editing – website that cares about its customers. Read more about our services here: