Linking, Intransitive and Transitive Verbs

Study the following terms. These are the three types of verbs:

  • transitive verbs
  • intransitive verbs
  • linking verbs

All verbs must have a subject (the person or thing that the sentence is about). Whether or not they have an object (the action that the person or thing in the sentence takes) is the difference between transitive, intransitive, and linking verbs.

S = subject

V = verb

SC = subject complement

DO = direct object

IO = indirect object

linking verbs

take a subject complement

intransitive verbs

take NO object

transitive verbs

take an object

mono-transitive verbs

take ONE direct object

di-transitive verbs

take an indirect object and a direct object (TWO total objects)

cannot be passive can be passive
S-V-SC S-V S-V-DO S-V-IO-DO
be

seem

become

grow

smell

remain

turn

play

dance

meet

visit

read

drink

build

cheer

run

chase

speak

work

wake

jump

bark

bring

teach

send

When verbs can be intransitive or transitive depending on the context of the sentence, this is known as ambitransitive.

Linking Verbs

A sentence that contains no object uses a linking verb.

Two parts of a sentence are linked by these verbs. The two parts of the sentence they link are the subject to a noun or adjective. This makes linking verbs similar to the mathematical equals sign (=).

subject verb subject complement
Candace is an author.
Candace = an author.

Linking verbs must have a “subject complement” to complete their meaning. They do not make sense without one.

  • You go (???)
  • You go home.
  • She is (???)
  • She is a dog groomer.

In the above examples, home and a dog groomer are subject complements.

There are two different ways that linking verbs work:

  1. Both parts of the sentence are equal to the same thing (I am an engineer).
  2. The second part of the sentence describes the quality of the first part (I am a professional).

The most obvious linking verb is the verb:

  • be

Other linking verbs include:

  • appear, become, feel, get, grow, look, remain, seem, smell, sound, taste, turn

Linking verbs are never passive.

Look at these example sentences with linking verbs:

  • Are you hungry?
  • The magician appeared to be creating something out of nothing.
  • She is a dancer.
  • The caterpillar became a butterfly.
  • You will need to turn right at the stop sign.
  • You do not seem excited about the news.
  • Everything remained the same over the years.

(We sometimes call linking verbs “copula verbs”.)

Even though we talk about what “linking, intransitive, and transitive verbs” are, it is more important to talk about their usage. The reason of this is because many verbs can be linking, transitive, or intransitive depending on the meaning, or context, of the sentence.

example verb (feel) usage
I feel great. linking
He felt sore. intransitive
She thought the water felt warm. transitive

Intransitive Verbs

Verbs with no object are called intransitive verbs. This means that the action the subject of the sentence takes cannot be transferred to an object within the same sentence.

subject verb
They helped.

The meaning of most intransitive verbs can be understood if used alone:

  • He jumped.
  • She danced.
  • The horse raced.

Even so, we usually do follow intransitive verbs with other words that describe the verb. We use other words that describe how, where, or when something happens. We never do so with an object:

  • He jumped high.
  • She danced at night.
  • The horse raced at the Kentucky Derby.

Intransitive verbs are never passive.

Take a look at the following examples of intransitive verbs:

  • create, crunch, dance, dive, help, hug, jump, limp, pose, teach  

Look at these example sentences with intransitive verbs:

  • She crunches loudly.
  • He teaches at the school.
  • The mother and child hug.
  • I danced today.
  • She poses at work.
  • They were jumping high.
  • Were the volunteers helping?

Transitive Verbs

Verbs that have an object are called transitive verbs. An easy way to remember this is to remember that their action is TRANSferred from the subject to the object.

Transitive verbs can be both active or passive.

Some transitive verbs have only one object, but some can have two objects. Look at the following example:

Monotransitive verbs

Monotransitive verbs have one direct object.

subject verb direct object
She cooked the chicken.

Examples of monotransitive verbs are:

  • catch, cook, dodge, fix, hit, love, pat, reach, run, stop, whisper

Look at the following examples:

  • My mother cooked dinner.
  • We dodged the ball.
  • He reached for the dog.
  • She runs in the race.
  • Jonathan pats his son on the shoulder.
  • Stop making me yell at you.
  • What do you think they were whispering about?

Ditransitive verbs

Ditransitive verbs have both a direct object and an indirect object.

subject verb indirect object direct object
Timothy traded Anthony his Pokemon cards.

Look at the following examples:

  • bet, bring, call, cost, earn, forgive, keep, leave, pay, sell, trade

Look at these example sentences with ditransitive verbs:

  • I bet Mary that I will score better than her on the test.
  • She keeps a secret from her sister.
  • Forgive her for not talking to you.
  • He brings his girlfriend roses.
  • Bethany pays her landlord her rent.
  • Keith sells his boat to his neighbour.
  • He earns a living by being an artist.

Remember that depending on the context of the sentence and the verb’s meaning, many verbs can be used as both intransitive or transitive verbs (mono- and di-). These verbs are called “ambitransitive verbs”.

  • She called yesterday. (intransitive)
  • She is calling her mom. (monotransitive)
  • She called her mom to tell her she missed her. (ditransitive)

 

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