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Action Verbs

Action Verbs are verbs that express action. Ex: run, walk, do, drive.

I’ll do my homework when I get home.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Most action verbs are defined as transitive or intransitive. This means that some are used with a direct object (the person or thing that receives the action of the subject) and others don’t need a direct object. Some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive depending on their meaning.

  1. Transitive Verb – Joe will send the price quote as soon as he can.
  2. Intransitive Verb – Many of the students are not well. They coughed throughout the lesson.


Transitive Verbs

Transitive verbs always receive a direct object:

  1. Richard annoys his boss so much that he’ll never get a promotion.
    (His boss is the direct object of annoys and a promotion is the direct object of get)
  2. Jenna brings Mrs. Smith lunch every day.
    (Mrs. Smith is the direct object of brings. Jenna is the subject.

Here’s a list of some common transitive verbs that must be followed by a direct object:

  • bring
  • send
  • owe
  • contain
  • buy
  • show
  • take
  • tell
  • verify
  • check
  • get
  • wash
  • finalize
  • annoy
  • lay
  • lend
  • offer
  • edit
  • make
  • phone

Intransitive Verbs

Intransitive verbs do not need a direct object in order to complete their meaning. Many are followed by an adjective, adverb, preposition or verb complement (gerund or infinitive).

Here is a list of common intransitive verbs:

  • come
  • explode
  • laugh
  • sit
  • rise
  • excel
  • respond
  • run
  • cough
  • swim
  • emigrate
  • smile
  • act
  • cry
  • immigrate
  • lie
  • arrive
  • continue
  • die
  • go
  1. If Cathy continues to be late for work, the boss will fire her.
    (Continues is followed by an infinitive (to be), with no direct object.)
  2. The bomb exploded in the city center.
    (Exploded is followed by a preposition of place with no direct object.)

Many verbs can be both transitive and intransitive depending on their meanings.

Examples

  1. Jamie set the documents down on the CEO’s desk.
    (Transitive: The documents are the direct object to the verb: set.)
  2. The sun set low over the Pacific Ocean.
    (Intransitive: Low is an adverb. Set doesn’t need a direct object.)
  3. Ms. Tyson manages the accounting department.
    (Transitive: The accounting department is the direct object to the verb: manage.)
  4. John has had difficulty managing since his wife’s death.
    (Intransitive: Since is a preposition of time. Managing doesn’t need a direct object)

Note: Transitive and intransitive verbs can appear in any tense.

Here is a list of several verbs that can be both transitive and intransitive depending on their meanings:

  • set
  • leave
  • give
  • study
  • sit
  • grow
  • smell
  • dance
  • sing
  • write
  • teach
  • burn
  • eat
  • paint
  • drive
  • manage
  • stop
  • climb
  • run
  • check
  • cost
  • go
  • pay
  • improve

Exercises – Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Decide whether the following verbs are transitive, intransitive or both:

  1. The workmen have been painting for hours. ________________
  2. When they call from the charity, Mrs. Alpert always gives generously. __________
  3. Before you send the proposal, make sure you edit it carefully. ____________
  4. That perfume smells nice. __________________
  5. My new car cost me a small fortune. _________________
  6. Jim owed his landlord $450. _____________
  7. Pete emigrated from Australia in 1998. _________________
  8. The customer was tired of waiting, so he got up and left._____________
  9. Are you sure you want to paint the ceiling too? _____________________
  10. Please take the documents over to Mrs. Samuels’ office. _____________

Answers:

  1. intransitive
  2. intransitive
  3. transitive
  4. intransitive
  5. transitive
  6. transitive
  7. intransitive
  8. intransitive
  9. transitive
  10. transitive