Transitive Verbs

What are Transitive Verbs?

There are multiple types of verbs. There are the main ones: action verbs, stative verbs, auxiliary or helping verbs, and linking verbs. Verbs can also be classified according to voice, mood, how it changes form or spelling, and phrasal verbs. In this blog, we’ll talk about a type of verb that requires direct objects to make complete sentences.

Transitive verbs are verbs that need direct objects. Direct objects can be nouns, pronouns, or noun phrases that typically follow the verb and receives the action. To identify direct objects, you should ask the question “What?” or “The subject (verb) what?”; or “Who/Whom?” or “The subject (verb) who/whom?”

Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Her boss wants her notes. (Her boss wanted what?)
  • They thanked us for the housewarming gift. (They thanked who?)
  • Naya cleaned the dining room. (Naya cleaned what?)

The answers to the questions in parentheses are the corresponding direct objects to each sentence.

Now in some instances, transitive verbs can have indirect objects, which you can find by asking the question “ to/for what/whom?” or “The subject (verb) (direct object) to/for what/whom?”

Let’s look at the following examples:

  • Donna gave her daughter a bracelet. (Donna gave a bracelet to whom?)
  • The newcomer asked him a question. (The newcomer asked a question to whom?)
  • Leanne gave the garden a makeover. (Leanne gave a makeover to what)

This time, the answers to the question attached to each sentence are their subsequent indirect objects.

Here are some things you should remember about indirect objects:

1. They may appear between a transitive verb and its direct object.
2. Unlike, direct objects, they can take the form of prepositional phrases.
3. An indirect object isn’t needed to make a verb transitive.

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Transitive Verbs Rules

Study the following table of general rules for transitive verbs:

TensesTenses place verbs in their relationships with time. The three main tenses are present, past, and future. Each of these tenses is further classified into 4 aspects: simple, progressive, perfect, and perfect progressive. Action and stative verbs follow the rules of tenses. Depending on which tense is indicated, verbs use their past and participial forms, which are conjugated accordingly with the proper auxiliary verbs. Since most verbs can be used transitively and intransitively, or both, transitive verbs fall under the same rules as well.Present Tense:

– They cook hot meals for the homeless.
– Anton is driving his father’s car.

Past Tense:

– The boy carried three rackets to the courts.
– Quinn was chucking oysters in the yard.

Future Tense:

– Doctor Francis will dissect the specimens in Lab 51.
– Serena will be painting her skateboard yellow.
Regular and Irregular VerbsRegular verbs add –ed in their past tense and past participle forms. While irregular verbs change their spelling. Both regular and irregular verbs can be used as transitive verbs.Regular Verbs:

– Peter walked his dog around the lake.
– I washed the dishes after the party.
– Hilda had bleached her hair before she visited.

Irregular Verbs:

– We taught my cousin how to fish.
– Kyle has visited France twice.
– Raya ate vegetables.
Subject-Verb AgreementIn English grammar, subjects and verbs must agree in number. Fundamentally, singular subjects use singular verbs, and plural subjects use plural verbs (the s-form). There are several rules in subject-verb agreement for different sentence structures. Transitive verbs follow these rules as well.– We write essays in English class.
– Felix interviews women in the street.
– Hypertension affects many middle-aged people around the world.
Table for Transitive Verbs Rules

Examples of Transitive Verbs

1. The waiters took orders efficiently despite the crowd.

2. Please bring yesterday’s packages from the supply room.

3. Should we contact the contractor and have this checked?

4. Her dad cleared the yard after the horrible storm last week.

5. The wooden deck was installed by her brothers.

6. We will fly our kites at the beach tomorrow.

7. She is painting flowers on a really big canvas.

8. Oliver was being loud and obnoxious so a stranger punched him in the bar.

9. Someone might steal your bicycle if you leave it unlocked outside.

10. Sofia dropped her wallet as she entered the library.

11. Teresa has visited the island twice so she wants to go someplace else.

12. I can carry my own luggage, thank you.

13. Are the boys building a makeshift fort in the backyard?

14. Bosco had been navigating the Amazon river when he got lost.

15. Heavy rain pelted the roof throughout the entire evening.

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Transitive Verbs Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Transitive Verbs

Identify if the verbs in bold are transitive or intransitive.

1. One of the staff gave me a chair to sit on.

2. My daughter is a nurse.

3. They were all singing at the reception.

4. Instead of buying one, Paco made a doll for his daughter.

5. Kirihara’s cat scratched her new couch.

6. It rained heavily the whole time we were there.

7. Vittorio sneezed a lot because he was allergic to flowers.

8. Can you buy me a new laptop for my birthday?

9. Unni dragged the box of toys into the broom closet.

10. Janice wrapped the present with beautifully printed paper.

11. These old books should be kept in the other room.

12. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam.

13. Salome’s dogs chased the rabbit through the field.

14. They stood on the balcony to watch the parade.

15. It occurred to me that you have never been to any of my parties.


1. One of the staff gave me a chair to sit on. – Transitive Verb

2. My daughter is a nurse. – Intransitive Verb

3. They were all singing at the reception. – Intransitive Verb

4. Instead of buying one, Paco made a doll for his daughter. – Transitive Verb

5. Kirihara’s cat scratched her new couch. – Transitive Verb

6. It rained heavily the whole time we were there. – Intransitive Verb

7. Vittorio sneezed a lot because he was allergic to flowers. – Intransitive Verb

8. Can you buy me a new laptop for my birthday? – Transitive Verb

9. Unni dragged the box of toys into the broom closet. – Transitive Verb

10. Janice wrapped the present with beautifully printed paper. – Transitive Verb

11. These old books should be kept in the other room. – Intransitive Verb

12. Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam. – Intransitive Verb

13. Salome’s dogs chased the rabbit through the field. – Transitive Verb

14. They stood on the balcony to watch the parade. – Intransitive Verb

15. It occurred to me that you have never been to any of my parties. – Intransitive Verb

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Transitive 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.

Transitive and Intransitive Vebrs Table

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

It’s not possible to create full sentences without verbs. Broken down to the most basic grammatical elements, you can express complete ideas with only a verb and a noun. For instance, “We ate.” is a full sentence. Verbs drive sentences forward and express action, conditions, changes, moods, voice, etc.

The different functions of verbs are all important factors to facilitate clear and accurate communication. However, since there are over 11 types of verbs, learning about them can be quite a challenge. To reach your language goals, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

1. Use Grammar Lists

Sure, grammar lists can be sprawling and easily overwhelm English language learners, but they’re nonetheless important in self-studying. They can help you understand the essentials of every grammar concept or topic in existence. Obviously, it’s worth noting that lists (and similar tools such as tables and charts) are neither the only nor the best way to learn grammar. But these materials are invaluable because they can maximize the benefits of self-directed instruction. They break down complex grammar topics into simplified rules and formats. They also commonly include sentence examples that can improve vocabulary and skills in sentence construction. Furthermore, they’re handy when you need to compare and review grammatical concepts for any language requirement.

2. Use Audio-Visual Resources

Traditional English classes are limited and not at all sufficient for reaching advanced levels within a certain time frame. Much like learning to ride a bicycle, your instructor can only guide you and can’t ride the bicycle for you. So, self-studying remains an absolute need. It’s important to be exposed to English speakers and how they use the English language in different contexts and language needs. The cheapest but time and tested way to acquire this is through audio and video materials. Media possesses limitless functional language resources. Substantial exposure will easily increase your background knowledge in both professional and general English. Use media purposefully, which means you need to actively listen and learn. Many English students have achieved fluency by mimicking characters from their favorite TV shows or podcasts. More than that, there are even dedicated videos on social media platforms for particular language needs and objectives.

3. Practical Use

Studying grammar books isn’t enough. Many English students are grammar experts, and yet they can’t speak English at length. Without practical use, language theory remains in the domain of reading and writing, which is extremely limiting when it comes to communication. So speak or talk whenever you have the chance, both with native and non-native English speakers. If there aren’t so many chances to do that, make an effort to organize a study group or cultivate friendships with fellow English language learners or speakers. The only true way to speak fluently is through regular and consistent English conversation.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand intransitive verbs and stative verbs.

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Common Errors Made by English Learners

Since the verb “landscape,” if you will, is immense, transitive verbs overlap with other verb types. There are so many terms and concepts to memorize and understand. This is often a source of confusion for English language learners. The following is a list of common errors for you to study so you can avoid making them:

Common ErrorsExplanation/Examples
Prepositional Phrases as Direct ObjectsRemember that direct objects are nouns or pronouns. They are also the receivers of action verbs. Direct objects are never parts of a prepositional phrase.

– They danced the rumba.
– They danced on the floor.

The first sentence answers the question “what?”. The word rumba receives the action of the verb ” dance.” Meanwhile, the second sentence doesn’t indicate an action. Although the word “floor” is a noun, it’s part of the prepositional phrase on the floor. Therefore, it can’t be a direct object.
Misidentifying Noun PhrasesIn many instances, direct objects are noun phrases. This means they can include other words like articles (a, an, and the) or adjectives.

– She bought a leather sofa.
– They rented a quaint little cabin.
– John gave the blue baton to his sister.
Wrong Conversion of Passive VoiceRemember that intransitive verbs are NOT used in the passive voice. For example:

Transitive Verb:

Active Voice: Dominic takes photographs.
Passive Voice: Photographs are taken by Dominic. (this is grammatically correct even though it sounds awkward) Intransitive Verb: Active Voice: The students yawned.
Passive Voice: Yawned by students. (this doesn’t make any sense)
Transitive Verbs Common Errors Table

Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Transitive Verbs

Besides the learning advice in a previous segment of this article, it’s worthwhile to mention that the best way to achieve proficiency with transitive verbs is to develop a keen ability in recognizing them. Here are some useful tips to help you do that:

Ask the question what or whom?As mentioned earlier, the best way to identify if a sentence has a direct object is to ask “What?” or “Who/Whom?.” For example:

– Vikorn removed the bandage. (Removed what? A bandage.)
– Tanaka blamed Joel. (Blamed who? Joel.)

Both sentences answered the questions, which confirms that they have direct objects and makes the main verbs transitive.

Now, let’s look at the following sentence:

– A dark figure appeared in the garden. (Appeared what? Appeared whom? No sensible answers.)

The sentence doesn’t answer the questions, which means it doesn’t have a direct object and makes the verb “appeared” intransitive.
Remove the Words after the Main VerbTake note that transitive verbs need direct objects, so if you removed the words after the verb, the sentence wouldn’t make sense. On the other hand, intransitive verbs don’t need direct objects to make sense, so if you removed the words after the main verb, the sentence would stand on its own. For example:

– We need two sleeping bags.

The clause “We need.” wouldn’t make sense. But:

– The kids played in the garden.

The clause “The kids played.” still makes sense, which means the verb “played” is intransitive.
Be Aware of Ambitransitive VerbsSeveral verbs can function either as transitive or intransitive. You can utilize the previous tips to recognize which function they assume in a sentence. But for the sake of comparison, let’s look at the following sentences:

– Grandma helps my mom with the food on Thanksgiving.
– Grandma helps on Thanksgiving.

Which sentence has a transitive verb?

If you answered the first one, then you’re correct. Remember that some verb types can’t ever be transitive such as linking verbs and impersonal verbs.
Transitive Verbs Learning Strategies Table
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Transitive Verbs Frequently Asked Questions

Transitive verbs always require direct objects in order to make sentences complete. Direct objects appear right after the verb. In instances where transitive verbs have indirect objects as well, the indirect objects appear after the verbs and before the direct objects.

It varies depending on the reference material of the English grammar book. Verb classifications refer not only to their functions but how they relate to other parts of speech; certainly, there are overlaps.

Some books consider tenses as their own type of verbs, while some consider participles as their own part of speech even. But on consensus, there are 4 main verbs: active, stative, auxiliary, and linking.

Other types include passive and active, modal, transitive and intransitive, regular and irregular verbs, phrasal, infinitives, participial, and verbals. (Take note that an active verb can also be passive, transitive, and regular at the same time, so don’t forget the multiple ways that different types of verbs may intersect.)

Yes, stative verbs can be transitive, but only if they don’t function as linking verbs. If the stative verb has a direct object, then it is also a transitive verb. For example:

– The pizza tastes delicious!
– They tasted the pizza and thought it was delicious.

In the first sentence, the verb tastes functions as a linking verb and therefore cannot be transitive. Linking verbs are a kind of intransitive verb that has minor differences in rules.
In the second sentence, pizza is a direct object, which makes the verb “tasted” a transitive verb.

There are 3 main verb tenses. The present tense expresses things that are happening now or that happen regularly; the past tense describes actions that have already been completed; and the future tense indicates events that haven’t happened yet.

Each of the three tenses is further classified into 4 aspects and forms: simple, progressive or continuous, perfect, and perfect progressive or perfect continuous.

Yes. Transitive verbs are only a classification of verbs based on whether or not they have direct objects. Transitive verbs follow other rules, including the passive and active voice, regular and irregular conjugations, and subject-verb agreement.

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