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Intransitive Verb

An intransitive verb has two characteristics. First, it is an action verb, expressing a doable activity like arrive, go, lie, sneeze, sit, die, etc. Second, unlike a transitive verb, it will not have a direct object receiving the action.

Introducing intransitive verbs

An intransitive verb can be simply defined as a verb that does not allow for an object to receive its action. Many verbs can be both intransitive and transitive, depending on the context of the sentence within which they are used. Properly speaking, though, an intransitive verb is a verb that must be intransitive, and can never be transitive in any context. 

Correct and incorrect usage

Here is an example of the intransitive verb being used correctly in a sentence. 

"After a long and hard struggle with chronic illness, then man died peacefully in his sleep sometime last night."

In this sentence, "died" is an intransitive verb. The man does it, but no object actually receives (or can receive) the action of his dying. 

Now, here is an example of the intransitive verb being used in an incorrect way.

"The man arrived his apartment late in the evening, after putting in a long and stressful day of work in the office."

In this sentence, "apartment" is incorrectly being used as the object of the intransitive verb "arrived". This verb cannot take an object. 

For your reference, here are a couple guidelines you can follow in order to make sure you are using the intransitive verb in a correct way. 

  1. In order to figure out if a verb is an intransitive verb, just ask yourself whether it can be done "to" something. For example, you can "arrive" somewhere, but that somewhere doesn't directly receive the action of your arriving. On the other hand, if you "eat" breakfast, then your breakfast does directly receive the action of being eaten.
  2. A great many English verbs can be used as both an intransitive verb and a transitive verb. Moreover, under certain poetic constructions, even an intransitive verb may be able to take on transitive usage. For example, you could say that a man "died his death". It is thus a lot easier to identify intransitive usage than a pure intransitive verb. 

More information about intransitive verbs

In a way, the intransitive verb signifies pure action: it focuses on the person who is engaged in the act of doing something, as opposed to the relation with the environment that characterizes the action. The intransitive verb is thus a somewhat primitive construction, emerging out of simple focus on a subject and its action. The intransitive verb by definition cannot express the relationship between that action and the object in the environment that is receiving that action. Only the transitive verb can do that. 

Given the primitive nature of the intransitive verb, it makes sense that such verbs can often also be used in transitive ways (making it easier to create variety in academic writing). For example, you could say that "the man ate"; this is an example of "eat" serving as an intransitive verb. But you could also say that "the man ate dinner"; in this case, "eat" because a transitive verb, because it takes on the direct object "dinner". In general, though, the pure intransitive verb is primarily used for actions or processes that are automatic or non-intentional, such that they cannot be consciously directed at any given object. 

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