What is a Transitive Verb? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Transitive Verbs and…
  • 0:50 Linking Verbs vs. Action Verbs
  • 2:11 Transitive and…
  • 3:43 Is It Transitive?
  • 5:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Timothy Inman

Tim has taught college English and has a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing and poetics.

This lesson covers transitive verbs. Learn how to define and identify these kinds of verbs with the aid of examples, and discover the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs. Then take a quiz to test your understanding.

Transitive Verbs and Other Types of Speech

In grade school, you learned about different kinds of words. Persons, places, things and ideas are called nouns. The words that describe nouns are called adjectives. Verbs indicate what 'happens' to nouns in the course of a given statement, whether spoken or written. This is common knowledge for most of us. But you may not have realized that verbs can be further broken down into distinct types, according to their specific function within sentences. This lesson will cover one of these types: the transitive verb.

A transitive verb is defined as an action verb that takes an object. Think about elementary school one more time. You probably learned that verbs can fall under two categories: linking verbs and action verbs. Before we can really hope to understand transitive verbs, though, we should take a minute to review linking and action verbs.

Linking Verbs Versus Action Verbs

Linking verbs only serve to connect the subject of the sentence (the person, place, thing or idea that the sentence is about) to some other word that describes the subject. Linking verbs tend to take a certain form of a limited number of verbs like 'to be,' 'to seem' and 'to appear.' An example of a sentence containing a linking verb is: Joe is a blacksmith. In this sentence, nothing is happening to Joe. He is not doing anything. The point of the verb is (a form of the verb 'to be') is simply to link the subject Joe to a word that describes him, in this case blacksmith.

Action verbs, on the other hand, indicate that some action is taking place to the subject of the sentence. The sentence Joe melts iron does not simply show that Joe is a blacksmith, but that he is doing something related to blacksmithing. He is melting iron.

Action verbs show that nouns are doing something, as in the sentence, The man is walking. If the man is doing something, like walking, then the verb is an action verb. On the other hand, if a sentence reads, The man seems Belgian, then nothing is happening to the man, nor is he doing anything to anything else. He just seems like a Belgian. Therefore this sentence contains a linking verb.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Now that we understand the difference between a linking verb and an action verb, we can focus on two types of action verbs: transitive verbs and intransitive verbs.

A transitive verb is a certain kind of action verb that takes an object, as in the sentence: Joe melts iron. In other words, melts is a transitive verb because its subject (Joe) is performing a specific action on a given object (iron).

You may be asking yourself, 'Aren't all action verbs transitive? Don't they all perform an action on something?' The answer is no. For example, you can always say that Joe melts. In this case, Joe is performing an action (he is melting), but Joe is not performing an action on something particular. He is not performing an action on iron, as in the previous example: Joe is melting iron. If he were, then the verb melting would be considered a transitive verb.

When action verbs are not used in order to indicate an action toward a particular object, then the verb is considered intransitive. An example of a sentence containing an action verb that is intransitive would be Joe melts. Here are some other examples:

The blacksmith walks.

Sue is talking.

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