What Is an Intransitive Verb? (with Examples)

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What Is an Intransitive Verb? (with Examples)

An intransitive verb is one that does not take a direct object. In other words, it is not done to someone or something. It only involves the subject.

The opposite of an intransitive verb is a transitive verb. A transitive verb can have a direct object. For example:
  • He laughed.
  • (Laughed is an intransitive verb. It has no direct object. You cannot laugh something.)
  • He told a joke.
  • (Told is a transitive verb. The direct object is a joke. You can tell something. You can tell a story, a lie, a joke, etc.)
Remember, you can find the direct object of a verb by reading the verb and then asking "what?" (or "whom?"). If this question is not appropriate, then you're probably dealing with an intransitive verb. For example (verbs in bold):
  • He caught the bus after the party.
  • (Q: Caught what? A: the bus. This is a transitive verb. It has a direct object.)
  • He disappeared after the party.
  • (Q: Disappeared what? That doesn't make sense. You can't disappear something. This is an intransitive verb. It can't take a direct object.)

Examples of Intransitive Verbs

Here are some more examples of intransitive verbs:
  • Every single person voted.
  • The jackdaws roost in these trees.
  • The crowd demonstrated outside the theatre.
  • (In this example, demonstrated is an intransitive verb. However, to demonstrate can be used transitively too, e.g., He demonstrated a karate chop to the class.)

Examples of Verbs Which Are Transitive and Intransitive

Some verbs can be transitive and intransitive. For example:
  • Mel walks for miles.
  • (As walks is not being done to anything, this verb is intransitive.)
However, compare it to this:
  • Mel walks the dog for miles
  • (This time, walks does have a direct object (the dog). Therefore, it is transitive. Some verbs can be both intransitive and transitive, depending on the precise meaning.)
Here is another example:
  • The apes played in the woods.
  • (intransitive)
  • The apes played hide and seek in the woods.
  • (transitive)
    (Q: played what? A: hide and seek.)

Common Intransitive Verbs

Here is a list of common intransitive verbs:

Intransitive VerbComment
to agreecan also be transitive (e.g., to agree a point)
to playcan also be transitive (e.g., to play a tune)
to runcan also be transitive (e.g., to run a mile)
to walkcan also be transitive (e.g., to walk the dog)
to eatcan also be transitive (e.g., to eat a cake)
to appear 
to arrive  
to belong  
to collapse  
to collide  
to die  
to demonstrate can also be transitive (e.g., to demonstrate a skill)
to disappear  
to emerge  
to exist  
to fall  
to go  
to happen 
to laugh  
to nest 
to occur  
to remain  
to respond  
to rise  
to roost 
to sit can also be transitive (e.g., to sit a child)
to sleep  
to stand can also be transitive (e.g., to stand a lamp)
to vanish 

Intransitive Verbs Do Not Have a Passive Form

As an intransitive verb cannot take a direct object, there is no passive form. For example:
  • She fell.
  • (The verb fell (from to fall) is intransitive.)
  • She was fallen.
  • (There is no passive version of to fall.)
Here is another example:
  • The event happened at 6 o'clock.
  • (The verb happened (from to happen) is intransitive.)
  • The event was happened at 6 o'clock.
  • (There is no passive version of to happen.)
Compare those two examples to one with a transitive verb:
  • The man baked a cake.
  • (The verb baked (from to bake) is transitive.)
  • A cake was baked by the man.
  • (You can have a passive version with a transitive verb.)