An intransitive verb is one that does not take a direct object. In other words, it is not done to someone or something. It only involves the subject.
The opposite of an intransitive verb is a transitive verb. A transitive verb can have a direct object. For example:
Remember, you can find the direct object of a verb by reading the verb and then asking "what?" (or "whom?"). If this question is not appropriate, then you're probably dealing with an intransitive verb. For example (verbs in bold):
- He laughed.
(Laughed is an intransitive verb. It has no direct object. You cannot laugh something.)
- He told a joke.
(Told is a transitive verb. The direct object is a joke. You can tell something. You can tell a story, a lie, a joke, etc.)
- He caught the bus after the party.
(Q: Caught what? A: the bus. This is a transitive verb. It has a direct object.)
- He disappeared after the party.
(Q: Disappeared what? That doesn't make sense. You can't disappear something. This is an intransitive verb. It can't take a direct object.)
Examples of Intransitive Verbs
Here are some more examples of intransitive verbs:
- Every single person voted.
- The jackdaws roost in these trees.
- The crowd demonstrated outside the theatre.
(In this example, demonstrated is an intransitive verb. However, to demonstrate can be used transitively too, e.g., He demonstrated a karate chop to the class.)
Examples of Verbs Which Are Transitive and Intransitive
Some verbs can be transitive and intransitive. For example:
However, compare it to this:
- Mel walks for miles.
(As walks is not being done to anything, this verb is intransitive.)
Here is another example:
- Mel walks the dog for miles
(This time, walks does have a direct object (the dog). Therefore, it is transitive. Some verbs can be both intransitive and transitive, depending on the precise meaning.)
- The apes played in the woods.
- The apes played hide and seek in the woods.
(Q: played what? A: hide and seek.)
Common Intransitive Verbs
Here is a list of common intransitive verbs:
|to agree||can also be transitive (e.g., to agree a point)|
|to play||can also be transitive (e.g., to play a tune)|
|to run||can also be transitive (e.g., to run a mile)|
|to walk||can also be transitive (e.g., to walk the dog)|
|to eat||can also be transitive (e.g., to eat a cake)|
|to appear|| |
|to arrive || |
|to belong || |
|to collapse || |
|to collide || |
|to die || |
|to demonstrate ||can also be transitive (e.g., to demonstrate a skill)|
|to disappear || |
|to emerge || |
|to exist || |
|to fall || |
|to go || |
|to happen|| |
|to laugh || |
|to nest|| |
|to occur || |
|to remain || |
|to respond || |
|to rise || |
|to roost|| |
|to sit ||can also be transitive (e.g., to sit a child)|
|to sleep || |
|to stand ||can also be transitive (e.g., to stand a lamp)|
|to vanish|| |
Intransitive Verbs Do Not Have a Passive Form
As an intransitive verb cannot take a direct object, there is no passive form. For example:
Here is another example:
- She fell.
(The verb fell (from to fall) is intransitive.)
- She was fallen.
(There is no passive version of to fall.)
Compare those two examples to one with a transitive verb:
- The event happened at 6 o'clock.
(The verb happened (from to happen) is intransitive.)
- The event was happened at 6 o'clock.
(There is no passive version of to happen.)
- The man baked a cake.
(The verb baked (from to bake) is transitive.)
- A cake was baked by the man.
(You can have a passive version with a transitive verb.)
What is a direct object?
What are transitive verbs?
What is the subject of a verb?
What is the passive form (or voice)?
Glossary of grammatical terms