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The Intransitive Verb

Recognize an intransitive verb when you see one. An intransitive verb has two characteristics. First, it is an action verb, expressing a doable activity like arrive, go, lie, sneeze, sit, die, etc. Second, unlike a transitive verb, it will not have a direct object receiving the action. Here are some examples of intransitive verbs: Huffing and puffing, we arrived at the classroom door with only seven seconds to spare. Arrived = intransitive verb. James went to the campus cafe for a steaming bowl of squid eyeball stew. Went = intransitive verb. To escape the midday sun, the cats lie in the shade under our cars. Lie = intransitive verb. Around fresh ground pepper, Sheryl sneezes with violence. Sneezes = intransitive verb. In the evenings, Glenda sits on the front porch to admire her immaculate lawn. Sits = intransitive verb. Flipped on its back, the beetle that Clara soaked with insecticide dies under the refrigerator. Dies = intransitive verb. Realize that many verbs can be both transitive and intransitive. An action verb with a direct object is transitive while an action verb with no direct object is intransitive. Some verbs, such as arrive, go, lie, sneeze, sit, and die, are always intransitive; it is impossible for a direct object to follow. Other action verbs, however, can be transitive or intransitive, depending on what follows in the sentence. Compare these examples: Because of blood sugar problems, Rosa always eats before leaving for school.

Eats = intransitive verb. If there is no leftover pizza, Rosa usually eats whole-grain cereal. Eats = transitive verb; cereal = direct object. During cross-country practice, Damien runs over hills, through fields, across the river, and along the highway. Runs = intransitive verb. In the spring, Damien will run his first marathon. Will run = transitive verb; marathon = direct object.

Intransitive Verbs
An intransitive verb is an action verb, but it does not have a direct object. The action ends or is modified by an adverb or adverb phrase rather than being transferred to some person or object. Typically, an adverb or prepositional phrase modifies an intransitive verb or the verb ends the sentence. To determine whether a verb is intransitive ask whether the action is done in some way, in some direction or to some degree. Does a noun receive the action of the verb? If it does, then the verb is transitive and the person or thing that receives its action is the direct object. [In the following examples, the intransitive verb is bold and the modifier is underlined.]
1. The man decided against a plea bargain. 2.

3. 4. 5.


1. The subject (the man) did something (decided) a particular way (against). He refused because of his immaturity, not his lack of contrition. 1. The subject (He) did something (refused) for a particular reason (because of his immaturity). Alice complained bitterly. 1. The subject (Alice) did something (complained) to a particular degree (bitterly). At the end of the Roaring '20s, the incarceration index rose slightly. 1. The subject (the index) did something (rose) in a particular direction (slightly). When faced with the problem, the scholar paused. 1. The subject (scholar) did something (paused) at a particular time (when faced with the problem). Earl fell. 1. The subject (Earl) did something (fell) and the action did not transfer to someone or something.

The adverb or prepositional phrase answers a question about the verb: The subject did something WHERE?
1. 2. 3. 4.

If Charlie had run into the street, he could have been injured. The turtle may live in a small area of Arizona. In 1973, the incarceration number inched upward. Jordan drove into the lane.

The subject did something WHEN?

1. Thousands of cranes will return in the spring. 2. The number climbed in 1974 and in 1975. 3. Walter Payton died near the end of the century.

4. The company's leader collapsed during a meeting.

The subject did something HOW or TO WHAT DEGREE?

1. 2. 3. 4.

The statistics come in any form you like. Politicians and the public are complaining loudly. His blood pressure kept climbing steadily. She worked with care and precision.

The subject did something WHY?

1. 2. 3. 4.

Our elected officials listen because we vote. Shoshana's grades improved with the help of a tutor. Germany's expedition leader collapsed from the effort. Elise competed for her family.

Intransitive vs. Transitive Verbs INTRANSITIVE VERB


A transitive verb is an action that someone or An intransitive verb is an action that happens something does to something or someone. The verb by itself. The verb is not used with an object; is used with an object. A passive form can be therefore, no passive form can be used. used. The earthquake happened on March 11, 2011 The tsunami wave killed hundreds of people. in Japan. The earthquake was happened on March 11, Hundreds of people were killed by the tsunami 2011 in Japan. wave (that followed the earthquake). Other intransitive verb contrasts: lie-lay sit-set rise-raise

Some Intransitive Verbs

These verbs do not occur with objects, so they cannot be used in the passive voice. agree belong depend fall lie remain stand appear collapse die go live resemble stay arrived collide disappear happen look rise swim awake consist of emerge have* last (endure) sit vanish become cost exist laugh occur sleep wait

*Except: I was had. (slang) someone took advantage of me.