What are Intransitive Verbs?
Intransitive verbs express actions that complete sentences without requiring direct objects. Direct objects are nouns, pronouns, or noun phrases that receive the actions of transitive verbs. It’s toward them that the movement of verbs is “directed”, hence the name. Moreover, since verbs in the passive voice require subjects to receive actions, intransitive verbs can’t be used in the passive voice.
Let’s look at some examples:
- The workers ate.
- The children slept soundly.
- My friends voted for the opposition.
In the first example, there is no direct object or any other words following the verb “ate” but it still holds a complete thought and makes sense grammatically. Although the verb “ate” can be used transitively, it’s an intransitive verb in this sentence. The second sentence shows that intransitive verbs can be followed by adverbs, the word “soundly” in this case, which follows the intransitive verb “slept.” In the third sentence, the intransitive verb “voted” is followed by the prepositional phrase “for the opposition.”
Intransitive Verbs Rules
Study the following table of general rules for transitive verbs:
|Tenses||Verb tenses express when actions, events, and conditions take place. The present, past, and future are the three main verb tenses, with each one further classified into 4 aspects: simple, progressive, perfect, and perfect progressive. Verbs are conjugated according to the rules of tenses, under which intransitive verbs also fall.||Present Tense:|
– We are running around the lake.
– Are they here checking the equipment?
– My tummy aches and I’m not sure why.
– Billy and Fe swam the entire afternoon.
– We got the cake you liked.
– She hesitated when the dog began to bark.
– The flowers will bloom in about a month.
– Leandra will leave for the airport at 7 p.m.
– Serena will be painting her skateboard yellow.
|Regular and Irregular Verbs||Regular verbs add –ed in their past and past participle forms. While irregular verbs change their spelling. Both regular and irregular verbs can be used as transitive verbs.||Regular Verbs:|
– I asked her to come but she refused.
– Who among you has lived abroad?
– Julia and Rolin married in the summer.
– They already ate.
– Ryu, the writer, wrote for 10 hours five days a week.
– The wooden posts had fallen during the storm.
|Subject-Verb Agreement||A sentence’s subject must agree with its verb in number. Grammatically, singular subjects use singular verbs, and plural subjects use plural verbs (the s-form). Subject-verb agreement rules vary by sentence structure. Intransitive verbs also follow these rules.||– He responds to emergency calls during storms.|
– The kids write daily for handwriting practice.
– Mori sings with her signature whistle notes.
Examples of Intransitive Verbs
1. Katsa answers every time the Math teacher asks a question.
2. Don’t worry too much; even if your jokes aren’t funny, we will laugh.
3. The players were coughing during the match due to the dusty field.
4. It was quite crowded and humid, so someone fainted during the rally.
5. Some audience members became uneasy during the magic show.
6. Who could’ve predicted that our products would sell so fast?
7. Stanley left for Europe last year and found a job in Scotland.
8. Tyler thought people wouldn’t be up to it but everyone was dancing.
9. Dona has promised to behave properly in the past, but her teachers didn’t believe her.
10. We climbed upstairs to enjoy the view from the third-floor balcony.
11. They were talking very quietly but the librarian wasn’t the slightest bit amused.
12. Jerry walked fast because he was scared of the neighborhood at night.
13. Is there anyone here who knows about the visa application process?
14. Paramedics responded promptly after receiving a call from the bar.
15. Honestly, we would’ve enjoyed our time more if it had rained less.
Intransitive Verbs Exercises with Answers
Exercise on Intransitive Verbs
Identify if the verbs in bold are transitive or intransitive.
1. Roberta sneezed so much because she’s very allergic to pollen.
2. Howard bought an expensive dollhouse for her niece.
3. The dogs barked when they heard the children rush into the yard.
4. We would’ve paid but Young-Ju insisted that she foot the bill.
5. Kirigi is talking to the museum director on the phone.
6. Saatchi was holding her breath during her son’s first talent show.
7. Tavian and Sati were married in a quiet ceremony at Bantug Cliff.
8. Can you bring me some parsley from the backyard?
9. We watched as the acrobats delivered an amazing show.
10. William sold lemonade from a makeshift stand outside their house.
11. You may swim but I need you back here in two hours.
12. Weiss entered with a confused look on his face.
13. Nadia expected her aunt and uncle to arrive on Friday.
14. Jill reminded me about the deadline for the training registration.
15. Onoxo smiled when he found out that the letter was from me.
1. Roberta sneezed so much because she’s very allergic to pollen. – Intransitive Verb
2. Howard bought an expensive dollhouse for her niece. – Transitive Verb
3. The dogs barked when they heard the children rush into the yard. – Intransitive Verb
4. We would’ve paid but Young-Ju insisted that she foot the bill. – Intransitive Verb
5. Kirigi is talking to the museum director on the phone. – Transitive Verb
6. Saatchi was holding her breath during her son’s first talent show. – Transitive Verb
7. Tavian and Sati were married in a quiet ceremony at Bantug Cliff. – Intransitive Verb
8. Can you bring me some parsley from the backyard? – Transitive Verb
9. We watched as the acrobats delivered an amazing show. – Intransitive Verb
10. William sold lemonade from a makeshift stand outside their house. – Transitive Verb
11. You may swim but I need you back here in two hours. – Intransitive Verb
12. Weiss entered with a confused look on his face. – Intransitive Verb
13. Nadia expected her aunt and uncle to arrive on Friday. – Transitive Verb
14. Jill reminded me about the deadline for the training registration. – Transitive Verb
15. Onoxo smiled when he found out that the letter was from me. – Intransitive Verb
Intransitive Verbs List
The following table is a list of three types of verbs: verbs that are always transitive, verbs that are always intransitive, and verbs that can be both.
Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners
It’s not feasible to craft complete sentences without verbs. Essentially, when English is simplified to its most basic grammatical components, you can communicate entire thoughts with just a verb and a noun. For example, “Bella slept.” is a complete sentence. Verbs drive sentences forward. They display actions, conditions, tenses, mood, voice, etc. Mastering the different and multiple functions of verbs may become challenging to English language learners, but there are several things to consider following to help you reach your learning goals.
1. Use Grammar Lists
English language resources such as grammar lists, tables, diagrams, and charts can sometimes be intimidating for their sheer quantity. But since self-studying is a necessity, students encounter these tools all the time. They certainly don’t represent the only method to master grammar, and they shouldn’t be the only tools to use either. Nevertheless, they work well as introductions to every grammatical concept imaginable. They can provide you with the clearest view of every current grammar topic. These tools are advantageous since they can maximize the benefits of independent learning. They split up complex grammar subjects into more comprehensible regulations and patterns. Additionally, a great many of them include sample sentences which are useful in expanding vocabulary and improving sentence construction. Furthermore, when you need to contrast or look over grammatical components for certain linguistic requirements, these materials come in handy.
2. Use Audio-Visual Resources
Enrolling in English classes can’t stand on their own in reaching a high level of proficiency in a given timeframe. Much like learning to cook, your instructor can only guide you and can’t do the cooking for you. This makes self-studying a constant and absolute need. It’s important to be exposed to English speakers and how they use English in a variety of contexts and language needs. A time-and-tested way to acquire this is by substantial exposure to audio and video materials. Media possesses functional language references without limits. They can easily improve your background knowledge in both academic and informal English. Use media with intention, which means you need to listen and learn actively. Many English students have achieved fluency by mimicking characters from TV shows they like or following the way the hosts from their favorite podcasts speak. In addition, there are countless dedicated videos on various social media platforms for every language need you can think of.
3. Practical Use
Remember that in any branch of learning, theory means very little without practical use. Without regular English interactions, studying grammar books isn’t enough. Ever wonder why many English students with grammar expertise can barely tell a story? Most often, it’s because they rarely speak. Books can only relegate whatever language level you acquire in the domain of reading and writing, which is severely limiting with regard to communication. So speak or talk whenever you have the opportunity, both with native and non-native English speakers. If there aren’t so many chances to do that, make an effort to organize something such as an English club or a study group. You can also cultivate friendships with fellow English language learners or speakers, and add cultural learning and how English relates to communication in other countries as a bonus.
Common Errors Made by English Learners
The landscape of verbs is vast, and the rules or functions of verbs can greatly overlap. Having so many terms and concepts to understand and remember can often be a deterrent or a source of confusion. Study the following list of errors commonly made by English students so you can avoid stumbling on the same pitfalls:
|Misidentifying Prepositional Phrases||As we’ve previously covered, direct objects can come in the form of nouns, pronouns, or entire noun phrases. They’re also the recipients of the actions of verbs.|
However, nouns are also a part of prepositional phrases, which are sometimes incorrectly identified as noun phrases by English learners. Consequently, they would think that the verb is transitive because it’s followed by a noun phrase.
Note that if a noun is part of a prepositional phrase, it can never be a direct object, so the verb preceding it would be intransitive. Let’s look at the following sentences:
– They gave us their concert tickets.
– The twins sang on the makeshift stage.
In the first sentence, the direct object is the noun phrase “their concert tickets.” This makes the verb “gave” transitive.
In the second sentence, “on the makeshift stage” isn’t a noun phrase but a prepositional phrase, which makes the verb “sand” intransitive.
|Sentences with Intransitive Verbs are Short||Intransitive verbs can appear with two or more prepositional phrases or adverbs or a combination of both. A wordy sentence doesn’t automatically make the verb transitive.|
– The situation escalated quickly in a span of an hour. (adverb and a prepositional phrase)
– Maricris protested against tax increases with a small group of activists at the park. (three prepositional phrases)
|Intransitive Verbs in Passive Voice||Note: Intransitive verbs CANNOT be used in the passive voice. For example:|
Active Voice: Wilmar directs films.
Passive Voice: Films are directed by Dominic. (the sentence may sound strange but it’s still grammatically and communicatively correct)
Active Voice: It rained today.
Passive Voice: Today was rained. (the sentence is nonsense)
Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Intransitive Verbs
Below is a list of best practices for studying intransitive verbs:
1. Intransitive verbs can NEVER be used with direct objects. Bear this in mind, especially when studying transitive and intransitive verbs together.
2. Don’t use intransitive verbs in the passive voice. This is another no-brainer.
3. Be aware of ambitransitive verbs. Several verbs can function both as transitive and intransitive verbs. Let’s look at the following sentences:
- My mother cooks well.
- My mother cooks breakfast every morning.
Which sentence has an intransitive verb?
If you answered the first one, you’re right. Remember also that verb types such as linking verbs or impersonal verbs (e.g. snow, rain, etc.) are ALWAYS intransitive.
Intransitive Verbs Frequently Asked Questions
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