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Types of Verbs (Transitive and Intransitive)

Verbs describe actions and states of being. Transitive and intransitive verbs concern whether actions are done to someone or something, and have a sentence object.

Last updated on February 2nd, 2024 at 03:20 pm

What’s a “verb”?

Verbs describe actions and states of being. They’re a pillar of language and an essential part of speech. Transitive and intransitive verbs concern whether actions are done to someone or something, and include an object.  The word ‘verb’ derives from the Latin verbum, which literally translates to “a word,” (of Proto-Indo European origin.) Verbs are an essential part of speech. Nouns are cool and all, but verbs are where the action is (no pun intended.)

As an essential part of speech and language, verbs are what gives language meaning and substance: they tell us about what is happening, and they are half of what makes up sentences. Sentences stripped down are essentially thoughts. When we think about things, or talk about our days with people, we naturally describes events, occurrences, actions, ideas, and anything else as happening to someone or something. Verbs are words that tell us what is happening; they are action words, and describe what’s taking place.

What are parts of speech, again? As a reminder, a part of speech refers to the main categories or class of words that make up language. English has 8 main parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adverbs, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, adjectives. Each category of speech carries an important role in how we communicate through language and words. Verbs, however, are words that describe states of being. In simpler terms: verbs tell us what is happening in a sentence or clause.

Types of verbs

Verbs are a broad category of language, and they are not limited to describing actions, or even individual words. There are 11 main types of verbs:

  • Action verbs
  • Stative verbs
  • Transitive verbs
  • Intransitive verbs
  • Linking verbs
  • Helping verbs (or auxiliary verbs)
  • Modal verbs
  • Regular verbs
  • Irregular verbs
  • Phrasal verbs
  • Infinitives

Transitive verbs

Transitive verbs are verbs with one or more object:

  1. Timmy kicks the ball.
  2. Ashley rides the horse.

In both sentences, the subject performs an action that is received by something. Whatever receives the action in a sentence is the sentence object. In the first sentence, the ball is kicked by Timmy; therefore, the ball is the object: it receives the action of the subject.

In the second sentence, the horse is ridden by Ashley. This makes the horse the direct object, and rides, a transitive verb (along with kicks.)

A way to remember this is that transitive verbs transition: they are in motion from one thing to another. Transitive verbs move from the doer to the receiver; and include one or more objects.

Intransitive verbs

Opposite transitive verbs are intransitive verbs, which do not have objects, since the action is not received by anyone or anything. With intransitives, the ‘action’ is within the actor:

  1. She is sleeping.
  2. Sarah laughs quietly.

Sleeping is an action that we do as human beings. It’s not something people do to other people or things—it’s something we do on our own and depict states of being. When actions occur and end within the sentence subject, they are intransitive.

Certain verbs are strictly intransitives (e.g. being asleep, laughing, thinking, falling.) Others can function as both transitive and intransitive; such as fighting, riding, reading, and so on.

Importantly, what distinguishes transitives from intransitives is whether an action is done to something, or whether it describes a state of being/manner in which an action was performed.

In review: types of verbs

Grammar (RULES!)

  1. Transitive verbs contain one object or more, and describe actions that move from an actor/doer to a receiver/object.

  1. Intransitive verbs do not transition towards anything. This means they do not contain an object, and are not acts that are done to anyone or anything.


Test your knowledge and understanding of the lesson:

  1. Some soldiers fight fiercely.

a).  transitive

b).  intransitive

c).  adverbial

d).  adjectival

  1. ‍I have a strong ache in my head.

a).  transitive

b).  intransitive

c).  Stative

d).  infinitive

  1. The driver stopped the bus.

a).  transitive

b).  intransitive

c).  Stative

d).  infinitive

  1. The cat chased the mouse.

a).  transitive

b).  intransitive

c).  Stative

d).  infinitive

    ‍5. The train stopped suddenly.

a).  transitive

b).  intransitive

c).  Stative

d).  infinitive

Keep learning!

Rome wasn’t built in a day; and likewise, grammar cannot be learned overnight. Take some time to keep learning, improve your writing, and maybe have some fun while you’re at it!


  1. Evan Peters
  2. Proto-Indo-European language
  3. Verb

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