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Intransitive Verb: Definition, Types and Useful Examples of Intransitive Verbs


Intransitive verbs in English grammar! This article introduces the definition of the intransitive verb with useful examples. You also learn how to differentiate transitive verbs from intransitive verbs.

Intransitive Verb

Intransitive Verb Definition

An intransitive verb is a verb that can express a complete thought without necessarily exerting its action on an object. A sentence composed of the intransitive verb does not have any single word that describes the object that received the action of the verb.

Intransitive verbs are either followed by a word or phrase, and such words or phrases typically answer the question “how”? Intransitive verbs don’t require a direct object to express a complete thought. The following is an example in a sentence:

  • She moved on.

Here the subject is “she” and the intransitive verb is “moved on”. You can add an adverb such as “immediately” to describe how she moved on, and it’s still not a complex sentence.

  • They jumped.

Here the subject is “they” is followed by the intransitive verb is “jumped”. You can add an adverb phrase “so high” to describe how they jumped.

Intransitive Verbs and Prepositions

prepositional phrase or an adverb comes after an intransitive verb in a sentence to add more information to the thought being expressed. A noun no longer follows intransitive verbs because it acts as an object.

Examples of prepositions that follow intransitive verbs include:

  • She was brought up on a ranch.

In this sentence “on a ranch” is not a direct object but a prepositional phrase. “On” is a preposition that tells more information about the prepositional phrase.

  • He grew up to be a preacher.

Here the prepositional phrase is “to be a preacher” and “grew up” is the intransitive verb.

  • He sat at the bank of the river.
  • He trained before it rained.

“On the bank of the river” is a prepositional phrase that answers the question “Where did he sit?”. “Before it rained” is a prepositional phrase that describes when he trained.

Common Intransitive Verbs

Based on their usage, verbs can be transitive or intransitive. It is rare to find a sentence composed of intransitive and transitive verbs. An example of this might be:

  • She sang a song.
  • She sang for hours.

Both sentences use transitive and intransitive verbs forms of the verb “sang.” Most English verbs often occur in an intransitive form, like continue, smile, arrive, occur, happen, etc.

  • These verbs occur in an intransitive form.

The phrase “occur in an intransitive form” is a good example of a prepositional phrase following an intransitive verb.

Intransitive Verbs vs. Transitive Verbs

How to differentiate transitive verbs from intransitive verbs?

transitive verb exerts its action on a direct object to express a complete thought. A direct object is the recipient of the action, and it can be either a word or a phrase. These objects answer the question “what?”. Let’s look at the examples of sentences with direct objects:

  • I saw a lion in action many years ago

Here the verb “saw” comes after the subject “I.” In such a case, we can ask the question “saw what?” and find the answer to the question. Here the subject saw the lion. “Saw” therefore qualifies to be a transitive verb.

Let’s consider the following contrasting example:

  • I saw out the bin.

Here we don’t know what the subject saw. There is no direct object in the sentence, and this makes “saw” qualify as an intransitive verb.

  • We renovated the old bathroom.

Here “old bathroom” is a direct object which makes “renovated” a transitive verb. In this sentence we can find an answer to the question “what was renovated?” and in this case, the answer is “old bathroom”. For instance, consider the following contrasting sentence “They renovated all day.” Renovated what? That sentence does not provide an answer to what was renovated, thereby making “renovated” an intransitive verb.

It’s straightforward to identify a transitive verb and intransitive verb in a sentence since they are opposite of each other. Transitive verbs are followed by direct objects which may be a noun or a phrase, unlike intransitive verbs which do not contain a direct object. Intransitive verbs are complete on their own, unlike transitive verbs which require to exert their action on a direct object to express a complete thought.

Transitive and intransitive verbs are a bit confusing to even writers themselves. This leads to incomplete or unclear sentences. Proper use of these verbs is crucial in your writing is essential to your target readers. This will help them to understand the message you are trying to convey and even encourage them to read more of your content.

Intransitive Verb Infographic

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