Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

A transitive verb, used with a direct object, transmits action to an object and may also have an indirect object, which indicates to or for whom the action is done. In contrast, an intransitive verb never takes an object.

Transitive verbs

A transitive verb takes a direct object; that is, the verb transmits action to an object.

He sent the letter. ( letter = direct object of sent)

She gave the lecture. ( lecture = direct object of gave)

In these sentences, something is being done to an object.

A transitive verb can also have an indirect object that precedes the direct object. The indirect object tells to or for whom the action is done, although the words to and for are not used. In the following examples, notice the difference between the direct and indirect objects.

The direct object ( letter) receives the action ( sent). The indirect object ( Robert) is the person to whom the letter is sent.

He sent Robert the letter.

The direct object ( lecture) receives the action ( gave). The indirect object ( class) is the group to whom the lecture is given.

She gave her class the lecture.

Learn to recognize words that are direct and indirect objects of verbs. When these words are pronouns, they must be in the objective case.

Intransitive verb

An intransitive verb does not take an object.

She sleeps too much.

He complains frequently.

In these sentences, nothing receives the action of the verbs sleep and complain.

Many verbs can be either transitive or intransitive.

She sings every day. (no object = intransitive)

She sings rock 'n' roll tunes. ( rock 'n' roll tunes receives the action of sings = transitive)