Transitive and Intransitive Verbs: What’s the difference?

Andrew Dinu

Verbs play a crucial role in shaping sentences by expressing actions or states. Among the various types, transitive and intransitive verbs stand out. In this blog post, we’ll explore what these terms mean, look at examples, and understand the differences between them in a straightforward manner.

What is Transitive Verb?

A transitive verb is a verb that needs an object to make complete sense. It performs an action that directly affects someone or something. To identify a transitive verb, you can ask, “What” or “Whom” after the verb to find the object.


  • She ate (what?) an apple.
  • He built (what?) a magnificent castle.

What is Intransitive Verb?

On the flip side, an intransitive verb doesn’t require a direct object to make sense. It stands alone, expressing a complete idea without the need for additional elements.


  • The bird sings (no object is needed).
  • He runs (no object is needed).

What’s the Differences Between Transitive and Intransitive Verbs?

The main difference lies in whether a verb needs a direct object to complete its meaning. Let’s break down the differences in a simple table:

AspectTransitive VerbIntransitive Verb
DefinitionNeeds a direct objectDoesn’t need a direct object
Question to IdentifyWhat? Whom?No specific question needed
ExamplesShe bought a new car.He sleeps peacefully.
Sentence StructureSubject + Transitive Verb + ObjectSubject + Intransitive Verb

Examples for Better Understanding:

Transitive Verb Example:

  • Maria baked (what?) a delicious cake for the party.
Here, “baked” is a transitive verb, and “a delicious cake” is the direct object.

Intransitive Verb Example:

  • The sun sets over the horizon.
In this case, “sets” is an intransitive verb, and there’s no need for a direct object.

Transitive and intransitive verbs

When and How to use Transitive and Intransitive Verbs?

Transitive Verbs:

1. Require an Object:

Transitive verbs need a direct object to make sense. Just ask “What” or “Whom” after the verb.


  • She bought (what?) a new car.

2. Action Towards Something or Someone:

These verbs express an action aimed at someone or something.


  • He painted (what?) the fence.

3. Common Transitive Verbs:

  • Everyday transitive verbs include “eat,” “build,” “write,” “make,” and “find.”


  • She ate (what?) her lunch.
  • He built (what?) a sandcastle.

Intransitive Verbs:

1. Stand Alone:

Intransitive verbs don’t need a direct object. The action is complete on its own.


  • The cat slept (no object is needed).

2. Express Complete Action:

These verbs convey actions or states without affecting an object.


  • The flowers bloomed in the garden.

3. Common Intransitive Verbs:

Everyday intransitive verbs include “run,” “sing,” “sleep,” “arrive,” and “rise.”


  • He ran (no object is needed).
  • The sun rises in the east.

What are the Tips for Correct Usage?

Following are some tips for correct usage of these verbs:

1. Identify Action and Object

To figure out if it’s transitive or intransitive, check if the action requires a direct object.

2. Consider Sentence Structure

Transitive verbs follow Subject + Transitive Verb + Object. Intransitive verbs don’t need an object.

3. Be Aware of Ambiguity

Some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive, so watch for potential confusion and rely on context.

4. Use Intransitive for Complete Actions

When the action is complete on its own, go for intransitive verbs.


Transitive Verb:

  • She played (what?) the piano at the concert.

Intransitive Verb:

  • The music played (no object is needed) throughout the night.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q1: What sets transitive and intransitive verbs apart?

The main difference lies in whether a verb needs a direct object to make sense. Transitive verbs require an object, while intransitive verbs don’t rely on one.

Q2: Can a verb be both transitive and intransitive?

Yes, some verbs can play both roles depending on the context. For instance, “run” can be transitive (“She runs a marathon”) or intransitive (“He runs every morning”).

Q3: Any common transitive and intransitive verbs to know?

Certainly. Common transitive verbs include “eat,” “build,” “write,” and “find.” Common intransitive verbs include “run,” “sing,” “sleep,” and “rise.”

Q4: How can I avoid confusion with verbs that can be both transitive and intransitive?

Rely on the sentence context to determine the verb’s role, and use clear language to minimize ambiguity.


Understanding transitive and intransitive verbs is essential for constructing clear sentences. Transitive verbs need an object, while intransitive verbs don’t. By grasping this, you can communicate more effectively and create grammatically correct sentences in English. In a conclusion, whether a verb is transitive or intransitive depends on whether it requires a direct object. Mastering this concept will undoubtedly improve your language skills.