Transitive and Intransitive Verbs—What's the Difference?

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs—What's the Difference?

Transitive verbs are action verbs with a direct object, while intransitive verbs are action verbs without a direct object.

A direct object receives the action described by the sentence’s verb. In the sentence, “The cat drank the milk,” for instance, the direct object is “milk” because the action of drinking is performed on the milk.

Determining if a verb is transitive or intransitive in a sentence is simple: If it has a direct object, it’s transitive. If it doesn’t, it’s intransitive.

For instance, in the first example “left” is transitive. It has a direct object (“a note”). In the second example, “left” is intransitive. It has no direct object.

Some verbs (like “left”) can be both transitive or intransitive, depending on whether they are used with a direct object. Other verbs are always transitive or always intransitive.

To learn more about transitive and intransitive verbs, review WriteLab’s Guide.


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