Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

What Are Transitive Verbs? (with Examples)

What Are Transitive Verbs? (with Examples)

A transitive verb is a verb that can take a direct object. In other words, it is done to someone or something. Most verbs are transitive.



A transitive verb contrasts with an intransitive verb. An intransitive verb cannot have a direct object.

Here is an example of a transitive verb:
  • He read a book.
  • (Read (from to read) is a transitive verb. In this example, the direct object is a book. To read is transitive because you can read something. You can read a poem, a story, a face, a horoscope, etc.)
Here is an example of an intransitive verb:

  • He snores.
  • (Snores (from to snore) is an intransitive verb. It has no direct object. You cannot snore something.)

    Finding the Direct Object

    Remember, to find a direct object of a transitive verb, first find the verb and then ask "what?" (or "whom?").
    (Note: If this question seems nonsensical, then you're probably dealing with an intransitive verb.)

    In each example below, the transitive verb is shaded and direct object is in bold.
    • Lee loves pies.
    • (Q: Loves what? A: pies)
      (The direct object is pies. To love is a transitive verb. It has a direct object.)
    • Lee eats cakes.
    • (Q: Eats what? A: cakes)
      (The direct object is cakes. To eat is a transitive verb. It has a direct object.)
    Direct objects aren't usually single words. They are usually noun phrases. For example:
    • Lee loves mince pies.
    • Lee eats dozens of cakes.
    • Mary saw the eagle two days after it escaped.
    • As the clock struck midnight, all the toys opened their eyes.
    • (Q: Struck what? A: midnight)
      (Note: A direct object does not have to be something tangible. If it answers the question "what?" or "whom?" in relation to a verb, then it's a direct object. The word midnight is not tangible, but it is a perfectly good direct object for the verb to strike.)
    Compare the examples above to this intransitive verb:
    • They arrived after the party.
    • (Q: Arrived what? That doesn't make sense. You can't arrive something. Arrive is an intransitive verb. It can't take a direct object.)

    Examples of Transitive Verbs

    Here are some more examples of transitive verbs. Remember, to prove they are transitive, find the verb (shaded) and then ask "what?" or "whom?" to find the direct object (in bold).
    • No amount of time can erase the memory of a good cat, and no amount of masking tape can ever totally remove his fur from your couch. (Leo Buscaglia, 1925-1998)
    Transitive verbs are very common. They even appear inside the direct objects of other transitive verbs. Look at these examples:
    • I loathe people who keep dogs. They are cowards who haven't got the guts to bite people themselves.
    • (Q: Loathe what? A: people who keep dogs)
      (Q: Got what? A: the guts to bite people)
    • I loathe people who keep dogs. They are cowards who haven't got the guts to bite people themselves.
    • (Q: Keep what? A: dogs)
      (Q: To bite what? A: people)
    • You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow. (Jeff Valdez)
    • (Q: Can't get what? A: eight cats to pull a sled through snow)

    • You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow.
    • (Q: To pull what? A: a sled)

    Examples of Verbs Which Are Transitive and Intransitive

    Some verbs can be transitive and intransitive. For example:
    • Mark walks his dog for miles
    • (To walk is transitive.)
    However, compare it to this:
    • Mark walks for miles.
    • (As walks is not being done to anything, this verb is intransitive. Some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive, depending on the precise meaning.)
    Here is another example:
    • The workers protested their innocence in the car park.
    • (transitive)
    • The workers protested in the car park.
    • (intransitive)
    Interactive Test