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Transitive English Verbs

Verbs have traditionally been defined as “action or state of being words.” Main verbs, or principal verbs, fall into five categories in English grammar. Transitive verbs are English verbs that take an object. Monotransitive verbs take only one object: a direct object. Ditransitive verbs take two objects: (1) a direct object and an indirect object or (2) a direct object and an object complement. Ditransitive verbs that take a direct object and an object complement are referred to as attributive ditransitive verbs. Transitive verbs can occur within passive constructions.

Some common transitive English verbs include the following:

  • break
  • buy
  • cost
  • eat
  • get
  • leave
  • lend
  • make
  • owe
  • pass
  • pay
  • read
  • send
  • show
  • sing
  • take
  • teach
  • tear
  • tell
  • write

For example:

  • My toddler colored the board book green. (attributive ditransitive)
  • A train ticket costs under ten dollars. (monotransitive)
  • She got herself a brand new coat. (ditransitive)
  • Please make the bed. (monotransitive)
  • My mom has passed her entrance exams with flying colors. (monotransitive)
  • My daughter can write all her letters. (ditransitive)

Many English phrasal verbs are transitive. (Some phrasal verbs are also intransitive.) Phrasal verbs are a common English verb form that consist of a verb followed by a p-word that functions as a particle. For example:

  • The woman gave up her bad habit.
  • The teacher looked up the address.
  • My dirty dogs should get in the bathtub.
  • That cute man asked me out.
  • I made it up.
  • Please take your shoes off.

Transitive verbs can occur within passive constructions. The English language has two grammatical voices: active and passive. The active voice allows speakers to form sentences in which the grammatical subject performs the action of or acts upon the verb functioning as the predicate. The passive voice allows speakers to form sentences in which a direct or indirect object moves into the subject position. Because transitive verbs take objects, transitive verbs in active constructions can shift into the passive voice. For example:

  • The squirrel stole the corn. (transitive verb, active voice)
  • The corn was stolen by the squirrel. (transitive verb, passive voice)
  • I will buy a new car. (transitive verb, active voice)
  • A new car will be bought by me. (transitive verb, passive voice)
  • Splat the Cat put up a new tree. (transitive verb, active voice)
  • A new tree was put up by Splat the Cat. (transitive verb, passive voice)
  • His daughter brought him some hot tea. (transitive verb, active voice)
  • He was brought some hot tea by his daughter. (transitive verb, passive voice)

Transitive verbs are English verbs that take one or more objects. Monotransitive verbs take only a direct object. Ditransitive verbs take two objects, either a direct object and an indirect object or a direct object and an object complement. Ditransitive verbs that take a direct object and an object complement are attributive ditransitive verbs. Transitive verbs can occur within passive constructions.

References

Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kilby, David. 1984. Descriptive syntax and the English verb. Dover, New Hampshire: Croom Helm.
Leech, Geoffrey N. 2004. Meaning and the English verb. Harlow, English: Pearson Longman.

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