Transitive verb

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A transitive verb is a verb that accepts one or more objects, for example, 'to enjoy' in Donald enjoys music. This contrasts with intransitive verbs, which do not have objects, for example, 'to arise' in Donald arose.


Transitivity is traditionally thought of as a global property of a clause, by which activity is transferred from an agent to a patient. [1]

Transitive verbs can be classified by the number of objects they require. Verbs that accept only two arguments, a subject and a single direct object, are monotransitive. Verbs that accept two objects, a direct object and an indirect object, are ditransitive , [2] or less commonly bitransitive. [3] An example of a ditransitive verb in English is the verb to give, which may feature a subject, an indirect object, and a direct object: John gave Mary the book.

Verbs that take three objects are tritransitive. [4] In English a tritransitive verb features an indirect object, a direct object, and a prepositional phrase – as in I'll trade you this bicycle for your binoculars – or else a clause that behaves like an argument – as in I bet you a pound that he has forgotten. [5] Not all descriptive grammars recognize tritransitive verbs. [6]

A clause with a prepositional phrase that expresses a meaning similar to that usually expressed by an object may be called pseudo-transitive. For example, the Indonesian sentences Dia masuk sekolah ("He attended school") and Dia masuk ke sekolah ("He went into the school") have the same verb (masuk "enter"), but the first sentence has a direct object while the second has a prepositional phrase in its place. [7] A clause with a direct object plus a prepositional phrase may be called pseudo-ditransitive, as in the Lakhota sentence Haŋpíkčeka kiŋ lená wé-čage ("I made those moccasins for him"). [8] Such constructions are sometimes called complex transitive. The category of complex transitives includes not only prepositional phrases but also dependent clauses, appositives, and other structures. [9] There is some controversy regarding complex transitives and tritransitives; linguists disagree on the nature of the structures.

In contrast to transitive verbs, some verbs take zero objects. Verbs that do not require an object are called intransitive verbs. An example in modern English is the verb to arrive.

Verbs that can be used in an intransitive or transitive way are called ambitransitive verbs . In English, an example is the verb to eat; the sentences You eat (with an intransitive form) and You eat apples (a transitive form that has apples as the object) are both grammatical.

The concept of valency is related to transitivity. The valency of a verb considers all the arguments the verb takes, including both the subject and all of the objects. In contrast to valency, the transitivity of a verb only considers the objects. Subcategorization is roughly synonymous with valency, though they come from different theoretical traditions.


Transitive phrases, i.e. phrases containing transitive verbs, were first recognized by the stoics and from the Peripatetic school, but they probably referred to the whole phrase containing the transitive verb, not just to the verb. [10] [11] The advancements of the stoics were later developed by the philologists of the Alexandrian school. [10]

Lexical vis-à-vis grammatical information

Traditionally, transitivity patterns are thought of as lexical information of the verb, but recent research in construction grammar and related theories has argued that transitivity is a grammatical rather than a lexical property, since the same verb very often appears with different transitivity in different contexts.[ citation needed ] Consider:

In grammatical construction theories, transitivity is considered as an element of grammatical construction, rather than an inherent part of verbs. [12] [13]

In English

The following sentences exemplify transitive verbs in English.

Other languages

In some languages, morphological features separate verbs based on their transitivity, which suggests this is a salient linguistic feature. For example, in Japanese:






授業 が 始まる

Jugyō ga hajimaru.

The class starts.









先生 が 授業 を 始める

Sensei ga jugyō o hajimeru.

The teacher starts the class.

However, the definition of transitive verbs as those with one object is not universal, and is not used in grammars of many languages.

In Hungarian

Hungarian is sometimes misunderstood to have transitive and intransitive conjugation for all verbs, but there is really only one general conjugation. In present and future, there is a lesser used variant – a definite, or say emphatic conjugation form. It is used only when referring to a previous sentence, or topic, where the object was already mentioned. Logically the definite article a(z) as reference is used here—and due to verb emphasis (definite), word order changes to VO.

  • If one does not want to be definite, once can simply say:
házat látok — I see (a) house – (general)
látom a házat — I see the house – (The house we were looking for)
almát eszem — I eat (an) apple – (general)
eszem az almát — I eat the apple – (The one mom told me to)
bort iszom — I drink wine – (general)
iszom a bort — I drink the wine – (That you offered me before)

In English one would say 'I do see the house', etc., stressing the verb – in Hungarian, the object is emphasized – but both mean exactly the same thing.

In Pingelapese

In the Pingelapese language, transitive verbs are used in one of four of their most common sentence structures. Transitive verbs according to this language have two main characteristics. These characteristics are action verbs and the sentence must contain a direct object. To elaborate, an action verb is a verb that has a physical action associated to its meaning. The sentence must contain a direct object meaning there must be a recipient of said verb. Two entities must be involved when using a transitive sentence. There is also a fixed word order associated with transitive sentences: subject-transitive verb-object. [14] For example:

Linda (Subject) e aesae (transitive verb) Adino (object) This sentence translates to, Linda knows Adino. [14]

In Polish

The definition of transitive verbs as those with one object is not used in grammars of many languages. For example, it is generally accepted in Polish grammar [15] [16] [17] [18] that transitive verbs are those that:

Both conditions are fulfilled in many instances of transitive verbs:

Maria widzi Jana (Mary sees John; Jana is the accusative form of Jan)
Jan jest widziany przez Marię (John is seen by Mary)

See also

Related Research Articles

A grammatical case is a category of nouns and noun modifiers which corresponds to one or more potential grammatical functions for a nominal group in a wording. In various languages, nominal groups consisting of a noun and its modifiers belong to one of a few such categories. For instance, in English, one says I see them and they see me: the nominative pronouns I/they represent the perceiver and the accusative pronouns me/them represent the phenomenon perceived. Here, nominative and accusative are cases, that is, categories of pronouns corresponding to the functions they have in representation.

A passive voice construction is a grammatical voice construction that is found in many languages. In a clause with passive voice, the grammatical subject expresses the theme or patient of the main verb – that is, the person or thing that undergoes the action or has its state changed. This contrasts with active voice, in which the subject has the agent role. For example, in the passive sentence "The tree was pulled down", the subject denotes the patient rather than the agent of the action. In contrast, the sentences "Someone pulled down the tree" and "The tree is down" are active sentences.

A verb is a word that in syntax generally conveys an action, an occurrence, or a state of being. In the usual description of English, the basic form, with or without the particle to, is the infinitive. In many languages, verbs are inflected to encode tense, aspect, mood, and voice. A verb may also agree with the person, gender or number of some of its arguments, such as its subject, or object. Verbs have tenses: present, to indicate that an action is being carried out; past, to indicate that an action has been done; future, to indicate that an action will be done.

In grammar, an intransitive verb is a verb whose context does not entail a direct object. That lack of transitivity distinguishes intransitive verbs from transitive verbs, which entail one or more objects. Additionally, intransitive verbs are typically considered within a class apart from modal verbs and defective verbs.

In grammar, a ditransitiveverb is a transitive verb whose contextual use corresponds to a subject and two objects which refer to a theme and a recipient. According to certain linguistics considerations, these objects may be called direct and indirect, or primary and secondary. This is in contrast to monotransitive verbs, whose contextual use corresponds to only one object.

In linguistics, an object is any of several types of arguments. In subject-prominent, nominative-accusative languages such as English, a transitive verb typically distinguishes between its subject and any of its objects, which can include but are not limited to direct objects, indirect objects, and arguments of adpositions ; the latter are more accurately termed oblique arguments, thus including other arguments not covered by core grammatical roles, such as those governed by case morphology or relational nouns . In ergative-absolutive languages, for example most Australian Aboriginal languages, the term "subject" is ambiguous, and thus the term "agent" is often used instead to contrast with "object", such that basic word order is often spoken of in terms such as Agent-Object-Verb (AOV) instead of Subject-Object-Verb (SOV). Topic-prominent languages, such as Mandarin, focus their grammars less on the subject-object or agent-object dichotomies but rather on the pragmatic dichotomy of topic and comment.

The antipassive voice is a type of grammatical voice that either does not include the object or includes the object in an oblique case. This construction is similar to the passive voice, in that it decreases the verb's valency by one – the passive by deleting the agent and "promoting" the object to become the subject of the passive construction, the antipassive by deleting the object and "promoting" the agent to become the subject of the antipassive construction.

In linguistics, morphosyntactic alignment is the grammatical relationship between arguments—specifically, between the two arguments of transitive verbs like the dog chased the cat, and the single argument of intransitive verbs like the cat ran away. English has a subject, which merges the more active argument of transitive verbs with the argument of intransitive verbs, leaving the object distinct; other languages may have different strategies, or, rarely, make no distinction at all. Distinctions may be made morphologically, syntactically, or both.

In linguistic typology, ergative–absolutive alignment is a type of morphosyntactic alignment in which the single argument ("subject") of an intransitive verb behaves like the object of a transitive verb, and differently from the agent of a transitive verb. Examples include Basque, Georgian, Mayan, Tibetan, and certain Indo-European languages. It has also been attributed to the Semitic modern Aramaic languages. Ergative languages are classified into 2 groups: those that are morphologically ergative but syntactically behave as accusative and those that—on top of being ergative morphologically—also show ergativity in syntax. No language has been recorded in which both the morphological and syntactical ergative are present. Languages that belong to the former group are more numerous than those to the latter. Dyirbal is said to be the only representative of syntactic ergativity, yet it displays accusative alignment with certain pronouns.

In linguistics, a causative is a valency-increasing operation that indicates that a subject either causes someone or something else to do or be something or causes a change in state of a non-volitional event. Normally, it brings in a new argument, A, into a transitive clause, with the original subject S becoming the object O.

In linguistics, valency or valence is the number and type of arguments controlled by a predicate, content verbs being typical predicates. Valency is related, though not identical, to subcategorization and transitivity, which count only object arguments – valency counts all arguments, including the subject. The linguistic meaning of valency derives from the definition of valency in chemistry. Like valency found in chemistry, there is the binding of specific elements. In the grammatical theory of valency, the verbs organize sentences by binding the specific elements. Examples of elements that would be bound would be the complement and the actant. Although the term originates from valence in chemistry, linguistic valency has a close analogy in mathematics under the term arity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">English passive voice</span> Grammatical voice in the English language

The passive voice in English is a grammatical voice whose syntax is marked by a subject followed by a stative verb complemented by a past participle. For example:

The applicative voice is a grammatical voice that promotes an oblique argument of a verb to the core object argument. It is generally considered a valency-increasing morpheme. The Applicative is often found in agglutinative languages, such as the Bantu languages and Austronesian languages. Other examples include Nuxalk, Ubykh, and Ainu.

In linguistics, an argument is an expression that helps complete the meaning of a predicate, the latter referring in this context to a main verb and its auxiliaries. In this regard, the complement is a closely related concept. Most predicates take one, two, or three arguments. A predicate and its arguments form a predicate-argument structure. The discussion of predicates and arguments is associated most with (content) verbs and noun phrases (NPs), although other syntactic categories can also be construed as predicates and as arguments. Arguments must be distinguished from adjuncts. While a predicate needs its arguments to complete its meaning, the adjuncts that appear with a predicate are optional; they are not necessary to complete the meaning of the predicate. Most theories of syntax and semantics acknowledge arguments and adjuncts, although the terminology varies, and the distinction is generally believed to exist in all languages. Dependency grammars sometimes call arguments actants, following Lucien Tesnière (1959).

This rather technical article provides a typological sketch of the Pipil language. Another related article outlines Pipil grammar in fuller detail. The distinctive purpose of the present article is to single out those specific features of Nawat linguistic structure that are relevant to this language's general typological classification and characterization, answering the question: What major features make this language similar to or different from other languages? Most of the assertions in this article are generalizations from information found in the Pipil grammar article.

In linguistics, transitivity is a property of verbs that relates to whether a verb can take objects and how many such objects a verb can take. It is closely related to valency, which considers other verb arguments in addition to direct objects. The obligatory noun phrases and prepositional phrases determine how many arguments a predicate has. Obligatory elements are considered arguments while optional ones are never counted in the list of arguments.

Araki is a nearly extinct language spoken in the small island of Araki, south of Espiritu Santo Island in Vanuatu. Araki is gradually being replaced by Tangoa, a language from a neighbouring island.

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In linguistics, subcategorization denotes the ability/necessity for lexical items to require/allow the presence and types of the syntactic arguments with which they co-occur. For example, the word "walk" as in "X walks home" requires the noun-phrase X to be animate.

In grammar, sentence and clause structure, commonly known as sentence composition, is the classification of sentences based on the number and kind of clauses in their syntactic structure. Such division is an element of traditional grammar.


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