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Transitive Verb

Term Definition
Transitive Verb

A transitive verb is an action verb that can effect a direct object. It is done directly to someone or something. Most verbs are transitive. A transitive verb contrasts with an intransitive verb.

Definition of 'transitive verb'

A transitive verb is an action verb that can directly affect a noun. It is done directly to someone or something like most verbs. The transitive verb is defined by the fact that it the verb can act on specific types of nouns. 

The opposite of the transitive verb is the intransitive verb: a verb that cannot or does not directly affect a noun. Sometimes, a transitive verb can also be used in an intransitive way. In that case, it would be called an ambitransitive verb. 

Correct use of a transitive verb. 

"At the dinner table, he asked his neighbor to pass the salt, because he had learned that this was proper etiquette." 

In this sentence "pass" is a transitive verb that takes on the object salt. 

Incorrect use of a transitive verb

 "In order to make win the neighborhood race coming up this weekend, a faster boxcar need we will."

This is bad syntax (unless one were Yoda): the object of the transitive verb should come after, and not before, the verb itself. 

In case you are still a little confused about the transitive verb, here are a couple rules you can follow in order to make sure you're using it in an effective way, or you can check our glossary for more information.

  1. If a verb is a transitive verb, then it is able to act on an object. In general, the object immediately follows the verb itself. For example, when you say that you bought groceries, the object groceries directly follows the verb bought. This is how most verbs function: they express a relation between subject and object. 
  2. There are several verbs that could be used as transitive verb but could also drop their objects and become intransitive, depending on the syntax of a given sentence. The main question you should ask yourself is: is it possible to do the action to a specific given object? If so, then the verb is probably a transitive verb. 

More information on verbs

According to some linguists, transitivity is an inherent property of the very nature of verbs. This would mean that the transitive verb is far and away the more common kind of verb in the English language, with its intransitive cousin being a relatively rare exception. In principle, the intransitive verb can only signify pure action that cannot be received by an object. Some common examples may be dying and raining: these verbs cannot take on an object, except in perhaps a figurative sense. The vast majority of verbs, however, are not like this. 

Again, though, it is important to bear in mind that ambitransitivity is fairly common in English as well. That is, a transitive verb may often be used in an intransitive or irregular way, depending on the context of the specific sentence in question. For example, if you ask "Does the disco ball light up?", this is an intransitive construction; but you could also say "The disco ball lit up the room", which is a transitive construction. For the sake of clarity, it can perhaps be suggested that a transitive verb is simply any verb that can be used in a transitive way, ever, ambitransitivity notwithstanding.   

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Synonyms: transitive-verb

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