Caleb S.
Caleb S.

What is an Intransitive Verb? | Definition & Examples

14 min read

Published on: Jul 5, 2024

Last updated on: Jul 8, 2024

intransitive verbs

A sentence like "The flowers bloom" seems simple, right? 

But have you ever wondered why we don't say "The flowers bloom the garden"? That's because the verb "bloom" in this sentence is what we call an intransitive verb.

Intransitive verbs are like solo performers in a sentence – they don't need an object to complete their action. They can stand alone and still make perfect sense. 

For example, "She laughed," "He runs," and "They arrived." These verbs describe actions that don't transfer to something or someone else; they just happen!

Intransitive Verb Definition

“An intransitive verb is a type of verb that does not require a direct object to complete its meaning. It expresses an action or state that stands alone and does not transfer to something or someone else in the sentence. “

They play a key role in conveying actions or states efficiently, highlighting how subjects perform actions or exist without affecting other elements in the sentence structure.

Intransitive Verb Examples

Here are a few examples of intransitive verbs used in sentences:

  • She sleeps.
  • The sun rises.
  • He laughed.
  • The flowers bloom.
  • The river flows.

How to Identify Intransitive Verbs

To identify an intransitive verb, simply examine the verb in a sentence to see if it functions independently without requiring an object (noun or pronoun) to complete its action.

Unlike transitive verbs, which necessitate an object to make sense, intransitive verbs express actions or states that do not transfer to something or someone else.

Types of Intransitive Verb

Intransitive verbs can be categorized into several types based on their specific characteristics or the nature of their action. Here are some types of intransitive verbs:

1. Action Verbs: These verbs denote physical or mental actions performed by the subject without requiring a direct object to complete their meaning.

  • Example: "She sings."

2. Existential Verbs: Verbs that express the existence or occurrence of something without transferring the action to an object.

  • Example: "There is a cat."

3. Verbs of Motion: Verbs that indicate movement or change in position without necessitating a direct object.

  • Example: "He walked."

4. Verbs of State: These verbs describe a condition, state of being, or emotions without requiring an object.

  • Example: "She sleeps."

5. Sensory Verbs: Verbs related to the senses that describe perception or sensation without involving an object.

  • Example: "The flowers smell."

6. Intransitive-Only Verbs: Verbs that cannot be used transitively and are inherently intransitive in their meaning and usage.

  • Example: "He sneezed."

How to Use Intransitive Verbs in Sentences

Using intransitive verbs effectively in sentences involves understanding their independent nature and ensuring they convey actions or states clearly without requiring a direct object.

Here are key considerations:

Subject-Verb Agreement

Ensure that the verb agrees with its subject in number and person. 


1. Number Agreement


  • Singular Subjects: When the subject of a sentence is singular, the verb that follows it must also be in the singular form.
    • Example: "She laughs." Here, the singular subject "She" is paired with the singular verb "laughs."
  • Plural Subjects: Conversely, when the subject is plural, the verb must be in the plural form.
    • Example: "They laugh." In this case, the plural subject "They" is paired with the plural verb "laugh."


2. Person Agreement


  • First Person: Refers to the speaker or speakers ("I" or "we").
  • Second Person: Refers to the person or people being spoken to ("you").
  • Third Person: Refers to the person or thing being spoken about ("he," "she," "it," "they," etc.)

Conjugation for Tense and Mood

Intransitive verbs, like all verbs, can be conjugated to express different tenses (past, present, future) and moods (indicative, imperative, subjunctive). 

(Conjugation refers to changing the form of a verb to indicate the time of action i.e. tense or the mode of the verb's action or state i.e. mood.)

Example:

  • He runs every morning. (Here, "runs" is the present tense form of the verb "run.")
  • Run faster! (Here, "Run" is the base form of the verb "run," used in the imperative mood to give a command.)

Modifiers

Intransitive verbs can be followed by modifiers such as adverbs, clauses, and phrases

These modifiers provide additional information about where, when, or how something occurs, enhancing the detail and context of the action or state expressed by the verb.

Examples:

  • Adverbs: "He runs quickly." 

(Here, "quickly" modifies the verb "runs" by indicating how the action is performed.)

  • Adverbial Clauses: "She arrived after midnight." 

(The adverbial clause "after midnight" modifies the verb "arrived" by specifying the time of the action.)

  • Prepositional Phrases: "The flowers bloom in spring." 

(The prepositional phrase "in spring" modifies the verb "bloom" by specifying the time when the action occurs.)

Intransitive Verbs vs Transitive Verbs

Understanding the distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs is fundamental in grammar and sentence structuring. These classifications are based on how verbs function within sentences and whether they require a direct object to complete their meaning.

Feature

Transitive Verb

Intransitive Verb

Definition

Require a direct object to complete its meaning.

Do not require a direct object to complete its meaning.

Examples

"She reads a book."

"He sleeps."

Function

Transfer action to a receiver or object in the sentence.

Express actions or states that do not transfer to something or someone else.

Completeness

The sentence is incomplete without specifying the object.

The sentence is complete on its own without needing further clarification.

Ambitransitive Verbs

Ambitransitive verbs, also known as ambitransitive verbs, are a unique category of verbs that can function both as transitive verbs and intransitive depending on how they are used in a sentence. 

This flexibility allows them to either take a direct object to complete their meaning (transitive usage) or function without a direct object (intransitive usage).

Transitive Usage

In transitive usage, ambitransitive verbs require a direct object to complete their meaning and convey an action that affects the object.

Example:

  • She opened the door.

(Here, "opened" is used transitively with "the door" as the direct object.)

Intransitive Usage

In intransitive usage, ambitransitive verbs do not require a direct object and express actions or states that occur independently.

Example:

  • The door opened.

(Here, "opened" is used intransitively without a direct object, describing the action performed by the subject "the door.")

Worksheet: Intransitive and Transitive Verbs

Part 1: Identify whether the following verbs are intransitive (I) or transitive (T).

  1. Run ___
  2. Eat  ___
  3. Sleep ___
  4. Bring ___
  5. Smile ___

Part 2: Identify whether the following verbs are intransitive (I), transitive (T), or both (B).

  1. They jumped. ___
  2. She closed the door. ___
  3. The flowers bloom in spring. ___
  4. I saw a shooting star. ___
  5. He walked to the store. ___

Part 3: Which of the Following Verbs is Not an Intransitive Verb?

  1. Run
  2. Bring 
  3. Sleep 
  4. Smile 
  5. Arrive 


Answer Key:

Part 1:

  1. I
  2. T
  3. I
  4. T
  5. I

Part 2:

  1. I
  2. T
  3. I
  4. T
  5. T

Part 3:

  1. Bring

All in all, recognizing whether a verb is intransitive or transitive helps in creating grammatically correct sentences and conveying precise meanings in both spoken and written English. 

By practicing with the worksheets and understanding the various types of verbs discussed, you can get insights into how verbs function in different contexts.

Ready to refine your writing even further? Use our grammar checker for flawless English and explore AI essay writer-free essay maker

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Continue Learning

If you want to learn more about academic writing, grammar, and related concepts, check out these blogs. 

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Caleb S.

WRITTEN BY

Caleb S. (Mass Literature and Linguistics)

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

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