Danielle writes in:
Hi Snarky! Love your blog! Okay, I thought I understood the difference between intransitive and transitive verbs. But yesterday my teacher said that when you're using the passive voice, all verbs are transitive. Huh? Please explain this. Thanks!Hi Danielle! Your teacher is absolutely right.
As you know, many verbs can be either transitive or intransitive, depending on context. So don't bother trying to memorize which verbs are which. Instead, learn the rules so you can always get it right.
- Transitive verbs are action verbs that require a direct object. The verb's action is transferred directly to the object, which can be a noun, pronoun, phrase, or clause.
- Find the direct object by asking Subject + Verb + What/Whom? I eat a sandwich for lunch every day. I eat what? A sandwich. That's the direct object. Therefore, in this sentence 'eat' is a transitive verb.
- Intransitive verbs don't require a direct object. Right after taking a shower every morning, I eat. I eat what? The sentence doesn't say, so there is no direct object. In this sentence, 'eat' is an intransitive verb.
- Sentences in the passive voice always contain a transitive verb. When we use the passive voice, the subject is hidden there is always a direct object, which means the verb is always transitive.
Try this: Take any sentence in the passive voice and turn it around using the Subject + Verb + What/Whom? formula. Fill in the hidden subject.
- My bike was stolen. [Someone] + stole + what? My bike (direct object). Steal is a transitive verb.
- Students are given detention if they are late to class. [The teacher] + gives + what? Detention (direct object). To whom? Students (indirect object). Since there is a direct object, give is a transitive verb.
- Mistakes were made. [We/they] + made + what? Mistakes (direct object). Make is a transitive verb.
- The football game was played under the bright lights. [The teams] + played + what? The football game (direct object). Since there is a direct object, play is a transitive verb.