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.
- Transitive Verb – Joe will send the price quote as soon as he can.
- Intransitive Verb – Many of the students are not well. They coughed throughout the lesson.
Transitive verbs always receive a direct object:
- 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)
- 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:
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:
- 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.)
- 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.
- Jamie set the documents down on the CEO’s desk.
(Transitive: The documents are the direct object to the verb: set.)
- The sun set low over the Pacific Ocean.
(Intransitive: Low is an adverb. Set doesn’t need a direct object.)
- Ms. Tyson manages the accounting department.
(Transitive: The accounting department is the direct object to the verb: manage.)
- 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:
Exercises – Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
Decide whether the following verbs are transitive, intransitive or both:
- The workmen have been painting for hours.
- When they call from the charity, Mrs. Alpert always gives generously.
- Before you send the proposal, make sure you edit it carefully.
- That perfume smells nice.
- My new car cost me a small fortune.
- Jim owed his landlord $450.
- Pete emigrated from Australia in 1998.
- The customer was tired of waiting, so he got up and left.
- Are you sure you want to paint the ceiling too?
- Please take the documents over to Mrs. Samuels’ office.