HomeEssayIntransitive Verbs | Definition, Examples, list and Rules

Intransitive Verbs | Definition, Examples, list and Rules


What are Intransitive Verbs?

Intransitive verbs are verbs that do not require a direct object to complete their meaning. Their action is self-contained, meaning the action does not transfer to an object. Instead, the verb’s action is complete with the subject alone. These verbs, unlike transitive verbs, often express actions or states of being that do not act upon something or someone else.

Examples of Intransitive Verbs

Here are 10 examples of sentences using intransitive verbs, along with explanations for each:

  1. The sun rises at 6 a.m.
    • Rises is an intransitive verb because it does not require a direct object to complete its meaning. The action is complete with the subject (the sun) alone.
  2. The baby slept through the night.
    • Slept is intransitive; there’s no object that receives the action of sleeping. The verb describes the baby’s state.
  3. Birds migrate south in the winter.
    • Migrate is intransitive as it describes the action of moving without acting upon a direct object.
  4. The audience laughed loudly.
    • Laughed is intransitive because the action of laughing does not require an object to be complete.
  5. The leaves fell quickly.
    • Fell is intransitive; it describes the action of moving downward without needing an object to fall.
  6. She swims every morning.
    • Swims is intransitive as it doesn’t need an object to show who or what is being swum.
  7. The cake smells delicious.
    • Smells is intransitive in this context because it describes the state of being (smelling a certain way) without a direct object.
  8. The door opened suddenly.
    • Opened is intransitive here because the sentence doesn’t specify what was opened by the door; the door itself is the subject doing the action.
  9. They arrived late.
    • Arrived is intransitive as the action of arriving does not extend to a direct object; it simply describes the state of reaching a place.
  10. He sneezed loudly.
    • Sneezed is intransitive because the action of sneezing is complete without needing to act upon an object.

List of Intransitive Verbs

Here’s a table listing 20 intransitive verbs along with example sentences for each:

Intransitive Verb Example Sentence
Laugh The children laughed uncontrollably at the clown’s antics.
Sleep The cat sleeps on the sofa every afternoon.
Arrive The guests arrived early for the party.
Sit He sits at his desk all day.
Go They go to the gym every morning.
Fall Leaves fall gently to the ground in autumn.
Cry The baby cries every time she’s hungry.
Dance At the party, everyone danced until midnight.
Jump The frog jumped into the pond.
Run She runs in the park every evening.
Walk He walks to work instead of driving.
Stand They stand at the edge of the cliff, looking out.
Smile She smiles whenever she sees a rainbow.
Swim The fish swim swiftly in the clear stream.
Fly Birds fly south for the winter.
Shine The sun shines brightly after the rain.
Grow Plants grow faster in the summer.
Disappear The stars disappear at dawn.
Sneeze He always sneezes loudly in the morning.
Wait She waits patiently for her friend to arrive.

Rules for Using Intransitive Verbs

Understanding how to correctly use intransitive verbs involves recognizing a few key rules that distinguish intersitive verbs from transitive verbs. Here are the main rules:

1. No Direct Object

Intransitive verbs do not take a direct object. This means the action of the verb is not performed on anything or anyone. The sentence structure typically ends with the verb or is followed by other elements like adverbs or prepositional phrases that do not function as objects.

  • Example: “The rain fell heavily.” (The verb “fell” does not require an object to complete its meaning.)

2. Can Stand Alone with the Subject

Intransitive verbs can form a complete action with just the subject and the verb. They do not need an object to convey a complete thought.

  • Example: “The baby slept.” (The verb “slept” provides a complete idea without needing an object.)

3. Often Accompanied by Adverbials

While intransitive verbs do not have objects, they can be modified by adverbs or prepositional phrases to add detail to the action or state being described.

  • Example: “She laughed loudly.” (The adverb “loudly” modifies the verb “laughed” but does not act as an object.)

4. Cannot Be Passive

Because intransitive verbs do not have a direct object, they cannot be converted into passive voice. The passive voice requires an object to become the subject of the verb, which is not possible with intransitive verbs.

  • Incorrect Example of Passive Voice: “A song was sung.” (If “sung” is used intransitively, this construction becomes incorrect because it implies a direct object.)

5. Context Matters

Some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive, depending on how they are used in a sentence. The presence or absence of a direct object is a key indicator of how the verb functions.

  • Transitive Use: “She plays the piano.” (The verb “plays” has a direct object, “the piano.”)
  • Intransitive Use: “She plays beautifully.” (The verb “plays” does not have a direct object; “beautifully” is an adverb modifying “plays.”)

Understanding these rules helps in identifying intransitive verbs and using them correctly, ensuring clarity and precision in communication.


Understanding intransitive verbs can sometimes be tricky, leading to common misconceptions. Here are some of the most frequent misunderstandings and clarifications:

Misconception 1: Verbs Are Inherently Transitive or Intransitive

Many people believe that verbs are inherently transitive or intransitive, but this isn’t always the case. The truth is, the classification depends on usage within a sentence. Some verbs can function as both, depending on whether they’re used with a direct object.

  • Clarification: Consider the verb “run.” It can be intransitive as in “She runs every morning” or transitive as in “She runs a small cafe.”

Misconception 2: Intransitive Verbs Cannot Follow Prepositions

There’s a misconception that intransitive verbs cannot be followed by prepositions. In reality, intransitive verbs can be followed by prepositional phrases or adverbs, but these do not serve as direct objects.

  • Clarification: In the sentence “The plane flew over the city,” “flew” is intransitive, and “over the city” is a prepositional phrase providing additional information about where the plane flew.

Misconception 3: Intransitive Verbs Do Not Convey Complete Actions

Some might think that because intransitive verbs don’t have a direct object, they don’t convey complete actions or thoughts. However, intransitive verbs can express a full idea on their own.

  • Clarification: “The baby cried” is a complete sentence with “cried” as an intransitive verb, fully conveying the action without needing an object.

FAQs about Intransitive Verbs

Intransitive verbs are an essential part of English grammar, often raising questions about their use and characteristics. Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about intransitive verbs to help clarify their nature and usage:

1. What is an intransitive verb?

An intransitive verb is a verb that does not require a direct object to complete its meaning. It expresses an action or a state of being that does not pass from a subject to an object.

2. Can you give examples of intransitive verbs?

Yes, here are a few examples:

  • Laugh (She laughed loudly.)
  • Sleep (The baby sleeps peacefully.)
  • Arrive (They arrived early.)
  • Go (We must go now.)
  • Sit (Please sit here.)

3. How can I identify an intransitive verb?

To identify an intransitive verb, look for a verb that conveys a complete action without needing to act upon a noun. If adding a direct object after the verb makes the sentence incorrect or changes its meaning, the verb is likely intransitive.

4. Can a verb be both transitive and intransitive?

Yes, many verbs can be both transitive and intransitive, depending on how they are used in a sentence. The key is whether the verb is acting upon a direct object. For example:

  • Transitive: She sings a song. (Here, “song” is the direct object of “sings.”)
  • Intransitive: She sings beautifully. (Here, “sings” does not act on a direct object.)

5. Are there any clues to identify an intransitive verb?

While there’s no foolproof method to identify an intransitive verb just by looking at it (since many verbs can be both transitive and intransitive), the absence of a direct object following the verb in a sentence is a strong indicator. Additionally, intransitive verbs often make sense when followed by adverbs or prepositional phrases but not by direct objects.

6. Do intransitive verbs have objects?

No, intransitive verbs do not have direct objects. However, they can be followed by adverbs, adverbial phrases, or prepositional phrases that modify the verb or provide additional context.

7. Can intransitive verbs be used in passive voice?

No, intransitive verbs cannot be used in passive voice because there is no direct object to become the subject of the sentence in the passive construction.

8. What is the difference between intransitive and linking verbs?

Intransitive verbs express an action that does not transfer to a direct object, while linking verbs connect the subject of a sentence to a subject complement (a noun, pronoun, or adjective that describes or renames the subject). Linking verbs include forms of “to be” (am, is, are, was, were) and sensory verbs like seem, become, appear, feel, look, smell, sound, and taste, depending on their usage.

9. How do intransitive verbs function in a sentence?

Intransitive verbs function as the main verb in a predicate, conveying action or state of being that does not extend to a direct object. They often stand alone or are followed by adverbial modifiers.

Understanding intransitive verbs is crucial for mastering sentence structure and coherence in English. By recognizing whether a verb is transitive or intransitive, you can ensure that your sentences are grammatically correct and clearly convey your intended meaning.

Summer Leonard
Summer Leonardhttps://studentsnews.co.uk
Summer Leonard writes about students and school life. She shares practical advice and understanding based on her own experiences. Her writing aims to create a supportive community among students, helping them navigate the challenges of academics. Through simple and thoughtful words, she inspires and guides those on the educational journey.

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