Grammar Tips: Intransitive Verbs
  • 4-minute read
  • 18th March 2023

Grammar Tips: Intransitive Verbs

Today, we’re going deep into the world of English verbs. Specifically, we’re looking at intransitive verbs. What are they? How do we use them? And how can you spot them? Keep reading to find out.

What are Intransitive Verbs?

An intransitive verb is a verb that doesn’t need an object after it (i.e., noun, pronoun, or noun phrase). This means that the action described by the verb doesn’t act upon anything or anyone. In other words, the verb doesn’t have a direct object.

For example, “I sleep” is a sentence with an intransitive verb because the verb “sleep” doesn’t have an object. Another example is “She laughed,” where “laughed” is an intransitive verb because it doesn’t take an object.

Here are some more examples of intransitive verbs:

●  Sing: The birds sing in the morning.

●  Sleep: I sleep well at night.

●  Run: He runs every day for exercise.

●  Laugh: She laughed at the funny joke.

●  Cry: The baby is crying because he’s hungry.

●  Fall: The leaves fall from the trees in autumn.

●  Clap: The audience clapped loudly after the performance.

●  Arrive: They arrived at the airport early.

●  Disappear: The magician made the rabbit disappear.

How to Use Intransitive Verbs in a Sentence

All intransitive verbs form complete sentences with the subject + the intransitive verb. For example, “I run,” “She laughed,” or “The baby cries.” The additional information after the intransitive verb is optional and should give more details or information, such as prepositional phrases, adverbs, or another clause.

Let’s look at some examples using the intransitive verb laugh.

Subject + Intransitive Verb: She laughed.

Subject + Intransitive Verb + Adverb: She laughed loudly.

Subject + Intransitive Verb + Prepositional Phrase: She laughed at the funny cat.

Subject + Intransitive Verb + Additional Clause: She laughed because he was hilarious.

What are Transitive Verbs?

Transitive verbs are verbs that must have an object (i.e., a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase) to be a complete sentence.

Address: Please address me by my official title.

Find this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.

Borrow: Can I borrow a pencil?

Discuss: We need to discuss this more.

Love: I love you.

Offer: I would like to offer you a job.

Owe: You owe him a lot of money.

Pay: I will pay you at the end of the month.

Write: I wrote a story for you.

Promise: Do you promise you’ll be on time?

Have: He has a gift for you.

Verbs That are Intransitive and Transitive

There are many English verbs that can be used both transitively and intransitively, depending on the context of the sentence. Here are some examples:

●  Run: He runs every day. (intransitive) / She runs a marathon. (transitive)

●  Walk: They walk to school. (intransitive) / She walks the dog. (transitive)

●  Sing: The birds sing in the morning. (intransitive) / She sings a song. (transitive)

●  Cry: The baby is crying. (intransitive) / She cried tears of joy. (transitive)

●  Swim: They swim in the lake. (intransitive) / He swam the English Channel. (transitive)

●  Write: She writes in her journal. (intransitive) / He wrote a novel. (transitive)

●  Talk: They talk for hours. (intransitive) / She talked to the manager. (transitive)


Transitive and intransitive verbs can be tricky! However, if you’re unsure if a verb is or isn’t transitive or intransitive, ask yourself a simple question: Can a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase follow this verb? If yes, then it’s a transitive verb. If not, then it’s intransitive. If yes and no, then it’s both!

Need help using intransitive verbs or other English grammar rules in your writing? Check out our Common ESL Writing Errors Guide. Or if you’d rather get help from a professional, we’ll happily proofread a sample of your work for free!

Comments (0)

Get help from a language expert.

Try our proofreading services for free.

More Writing Tips?
Trusted by thousands of leading institutions and businesses

Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.