Transitive Verbs

My dog needs a bone.

Does this sentence use a transitive or intransitive verb? It’s an important question. You have to know the difference to write clear English sentences.

Why? Keep reading to learn the answer and discover why my dog needs a bone.

Photo by Atila The Hun

Write This, Not That

Write this:  Santa Claus stood up and pulled the bag of toys.

Not that:    Santa Claus stood up and pulled.

Write this:   The company offered me a job but I turned it down.

Not that:     The company offered me a job but I turned down.

Write this:   We are going to the department store to buy fresh vegetables.

Not that:      We are going to the department store to buy.

Grammar Fix

There are two kinds of verbs in English. Some verbs need a noun to help the verb; they are called transitive verbs. Other verbs don’t need a noun helper; they are called intransitive verbs.

Without a noun to help a transitive verb, the reader cannot understand the sentence. And, your writing will sound strange.

In grammar, the noun helper is called an object. The object can be a noun (e.g. bone) or pronoun (e.g. it).

Why does my dog need a bone? Because NEED is a transitive verb.

How can you know if a verb needs a helper or not? Read a sentence, find the verb and ask the question ‘what?’ or ‘who?’

If the answer is in the question, the verb is intransitive and does not need a helper. If the answer is not in the sentence, then the verb needs a helper.

Here are two examples.

My dog needs.

Needs what? The sentence does not say.

See? The sentence is not finished. In this sentence, the verb NEED must have a helper noun to tell us what the dog needs. We can finish the sentence with many kinds of objects.

  • My dog needs a bone.
  • My dog needs a house
  • My dog needs it.

Intransitive Verbs

Here is another example

She is sleeping.

Who? Well, the answer is she. So SLEEP is an intransitive verb. It does not need a helper. Here are a few more sentences with intransitive verbs.

  • I worked all day.
  • It snowed last night.
  • The fashion model fell on the stage.

Grammar Point

  • Transitive verbs need an object, a noun or pronoun that receives the action of the main verb in the sentence.
  • Intransitive verbs don’t need an object to make a proper sentence.
  • Some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive depending on the sentence.
  • A good dictionary will tell you if a verb is transitive (vt) or intransitive (vi).

Download the Worksheet

You can download a 3-page worksheet which lists over 300 transitive verbs plus some common intransitive verbs. Click here for the pdf file.

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