If you’re writing a story for the first time (or if you’ve been writing for a long time but still feel the need for a refresher), grammar is an ideal starting point for improvement. A common area writers get confused about is learning the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs correctly. Understanding the proper way of using these two kinds of verbs in a sentence could determine whether a narrative flows seamlessly from one sentence to the next or is just a mess of incomplete thoughts.
Defining Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
Before you start learning how to use transitive and intransitive verbs, you need to understand what they are first. To understand the difference between the two, you need to remember that verbs can have an object; in the sentence “my dog likes biscuits,” the object of the verb “likes” is “biscuits.” In some sentences, the verb can have two objects – in the sentence “I gave my dog a biscuit,” both “my dog” and “a biscuit” are objects for the verb “gave”. Basically, transitive verbs are verbs that have objects.
Intransitive verbs, on the other hand, are the verbs in sentences that are complete in thought even without an object. For example: “My dog jumped.” You can compare the intransitive verb “jumped” with the previous example of transitive verb, “likes,” by interchanging them. You can easily see the difference in usage because “My dog likes” does not provide any sense of meaning.
Using Them Correctly in Your Stories
One of the most important reasons for knowing how to use transitive and intransitive verbs correctly in your stories is because it prevents errors with active and passive tone. Transitive verbs can be used in passive tone, while most sentences using intransitive verbs can only be phrased in active form.
Using the previous examples, the active sentence “my dog likes biscuit” can be changed into passive format because it uses the transitive verb “likes.” E.g. “the biscuit is liked by my dog.” On the other hand, “my dog jumped” cannot be turned into passive form. As a reminder, note that there are exceptions to this rule but they are very rare (for example, the transitive verb “afford”, which cannot be turned into passive).
Finally, it is important to learn proper usage of transitive and intransitive verbs because verbs can change what the sentence is conveying based on whether they were used as transitive or intransitive. Take the word “grow,” for example – when used as a transitive in the sentence “he grows vegetables in the background”, could mean “to produce [object]” but when used as an intransitive, could mean “to increase in size,” as in the sentence “my plant is growing”.
There are a lot more examples out there, such as “ring” and “decline”. It is best to practice recognizing verbs as transitive and intransitive, as this would give you a wider vocabulary and better command of the language. Some of the tools you can use include a dictionary, as decent ones will indicate whether a verb is transitive or not.
Image credit: francois schnell on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/hv1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Hiten Vyas is the Founder and Managing Editor of eBooks India. He is also a prolific eBook writer with over 25 titles to his name.[/author_info] [/author]