What Is an Intransitive Verb? (with Examples)
Intransitive VerbAn 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.
What Does "Taking a Direct Object" Mean?An intransitive verb does not take a direct object. Here's a bit more on what that means:
- 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. For example, 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 VerbsHere are some more examples of intransitive verbs. With each example, if you read the verb (shaded) aloud and ask "what?", there will be no answer. There is no answer because there is no direct object. These verbs are all intransitive.
- 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 That Are Transitive and IntransitiveSome verbs can be transitive and intransitive. For example:
- Mel walks for miles. (As walks is not being done to anything, this verb is intransitive.)
- 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. (intransitive)
- The apes played hide and seek in the woods. (transitive)
(Q: played what? A: hide and seek.)
Common Intransitive VerbsHere 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 demonstrate||can also be transitive (e.g., to demonstrate a skill)|
|to sit||can also be transitive (e.g., to sit a child)|
|to stand||can also be transitive (e.g., to stand a lamp)|
Intransitive Verbs Do Not Have a Passive FormAs an intransitive verb cannot take a direct object, there is no passive form. For example:
- She fell. (The verb fell (from to fall) is intransitive.)
- She was fallen. (There is no passive version of to fall.)
- 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 Does "Intransitive" Mean?The word "intransitive" means "not transitive." So, to understand what "intransitive" means, we need to know what "transitive" means. A transitive verb gets its name from the idea that the action must transition through the verb to an object in order to complete the meaning.
- James bought. (incomplete) (When the action does not transition through the verb to an object, the meaning is incomplete.)
- James bought a carpet. (In this example, the action of the verb bought has transitioned to a direct object (the carpet), and the meaning is now complete.)
- James snores. (Snores is intransitive. An intransitive verb only involves the subject.)