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What Is an Intransitive Verb?

(with Examples)
An intransitive verb is one that does not take a direct object. In other words, it is not
done to someone or something. It only involves the subject.
The opposite of an intransitive verb is a transitive verb. A transitive verb can have a
direct object. For example:

He laughed.
(Laughed is an intransitive verb. It has no direct object. You cannot laugh something.)

He told a joke.
(Told is a transitive verb. The direct object is a joke. You can tell something. You can
tell a story, a lie, a joke, etc.)
Remember, you can find the direct object of a verb by reading the verb and then asking
"what?" (or "whom?"). If this question is not appropriate, then you're probably dealing
with an intransitive verb. For example (verbs in bold):

He caught the bus after the party.

(Q: Caught what? A: the bus. This is a transitive verb. It has a direct object.)

He disappeared after the party.

(Q: Disappeared what? That doesn't make sense. You can't disappear something. This
is an intransitive verb. It can't take a direct object.)

Examples of Intransitive Verbs

Here are some more examples of intransitive verbs:

Every single person voted.

The jackdaws roost in these trees.

The crowd demonstrated outside the theatre.

(In this example, demonstrated is an intransitive verb. However, to demonstrate can
be used transitively too, e.g., He demonstrated a karate chop to the class.)

Examples of Verbs Which Are Transitive and Intransitive

Some verbs can be transitive and intransitive. For example:

Mel walks for miles.

(As walks is not being done to anything, this verb is intransitive.)
However, compare it to this:

Mel walks the dog for miles

(This time, walks does have a direct object (the dog). Therefore, it is transitive. Some
verbs can be both intransitive and transitive, depending on the precise meaning.)
Here is another example:

The apes played in the woods.


The apes played hide and seek in the woods.

(Q: played what? A: hide and seek.)

Common Intransitive Verbs

Here is a list of common intransitive verbs:

Intransitive Verb


to agree

can also be transitive (e.g., to agree a point)

to play

can also be transitive (e.g., to play a tune)

to run

can also be transitive (e.g., to run a mile)

to walk

can also be transitive (e.g., to walk the dog)

to eat

can also be transitive (e.g., to eat a cake)

to appear
to arrive
to belong
to collapse
to collide
to die
to demonstrate

can also be transitive (e.g., to demonstrate a skill)

to disappear
to emerge
to exist
to fall
to go
to happen
to laugh
to nest
to occur
to remain
to respond
to rise
to roost
to sit

can also be transitive (e.g., to sit a child)

to sleep
to stand

can also be transitive (e.g., to stand a lamp)

to vanish

Intransitive Verbs Do Not Have a Passive Form

As an intransitive verb cannot take a direct object, there is no passive form. For

She fell.
(The verb fell (from to fall) is intransitive.)

She was fallen.

(There is no passive version of to fall.)
Here is another example:

The event happened at 6 o'clock.

(The verb happened (from to happen) is intransitive.)

The event was happened at 6 o'clock.

(There is no passive version of to happen.)
Compare those two examples to one with a transitive verb:

The man baked a cake.

(The verb baked (from to bake) is transitive.)
A cake was baked by the man.
(You can have a passive version with a transitive verb.)

Aaaaaargh! I don't understand transitive and intransitive verbs. I especially don't

understand how sometimes the same verb can be one and sometimes the other.
Please explain. I need to get at least an 86 on the quiz next week. Thanks!
Todd, you're in major luck. Yesterday I received a question from Lily aboutdirect and indirect
objects, and you should read that post first. After all, before you can ace transitive and
intransitive verbs, you need to know how to spot a direct object.
Quick rules:

Transitive verbs are action verbs that require a direct object. The verb's action is
transferred directly to the object, which can be a noun, pronoun, phrase, or clause.

Find the direct object by asking Subject + Verb + What/Whom?My dad is

driving Fred to his friend's house. My dad is driving whom? Fred. That's the direct object.
Therefore, drive is a transitive verb.

Intransitive verbs don't require a direct object. My dad goes to work every
morning. My dad goes what or whom? That doesn't make sense, so there is no direct object.
Therefore, go is an intransitive verb. [In this sentence, the natural question is: My dad goes
where? Where questions are answered by prepositional phrases, such as 'to work.']
The tricky part: Many verbs can be either transitive or intransitive, depending on context.
After we eat at my house, we can go outside. (intransitive)
After we eat our sandwiches, we can go outside. (transitive)
The truck runs on diesel gasoline. (intransitive)
My uncle runs a restaurant. (transitive)
I'm reading. (intransitive)
I'm reading an article in TIME magazine about sharks. (transitive)
Quick tip: Sentences written in the passive voice always contain a transitive verb. It makes
sense when you think about it. When the writer uses thepassive voice, the subject is hidden
and the focus is on the direct object. Break it down using the same Subject + Verb +
What/Whom? formula, and fill in the missing subject.
Rachel was given detention. [The teacher] gave what? Detention (direct object). To
whom? Rachel (indirect object). Since there is a direct object, give is a transitive verb.
The ball was hit past third base. [The batter] hit what? The ball (direct object).
To/For whom? We don't know (no indirect object). Since there is a direct object, hit is
a transitive verb.