in·​tran·​si·​tive | \ (ˌ)in-ˈtran(t)-sə-tiv How to pronounce intransitive (audio) , -ˈtran-zə- How to pronounce intransitive (audio) ; -ˈtran(t)s-tiv \

Definition of intransitive

: not transitive especially : characterized by not having or containing a direct object an intransitive verb

Other Words from intransitive

intransitively adverb
intransitiveness noun
intransitivity \ (ˌ)in-​ˌtran(t)-​sə-​ˈti-​və-​tē How to pronounce intransitive (audio) , -​ˌtran-​zə-​ \ noun

What is the difference between a transitive verb and an intransitive verb?

A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object, which is a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase that follows the verb and completes the sentence's meaning by indicating the person or thing that receives the action of the verb. The direct object typically answers the question what? or whom?:

The kids like pickles.

That really annoys me.

Have they sold their house yet?

An intransitive verb is not used with a direct object. If something comes after an intransitive verb, that is, in the position usually inhabited by the direct object, it doesn't answer what? or whom?; instead it answers a question like where?, when?, how?, or how long?:

Her car died suddenly last week.

Someone was coughing loudly.

A single verb can have both transitive and intransitive uses:

They are playing soccer.

They've been playing all afternoon.

A transitive verb can also have an indirect object, which is a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase that comes before a direct object and indicates the person or thing that receives what is being given or done. Many common verbs can be used with both direct and indirect objects. In the following examples the indirect object is in italics:

Find her a chair.

Can you read me the letter?

Who gave her lawyers the information?

He's saving Caitlin a piece.

Examples of intransitive in a Sentence

In “I ran” and “The bird flies,” “ran” and “flies” are intransitive.
Recent Examples on the Web Later mathematicians extended their work to show that these intransitive relationships could involve a nearly infinite number of species. Quanta Magazine, 5 Mar. 2020 This is not specified — fight is an intransitive verb here, a verb without an object. Quanta Magazine, 16 May 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'intransitive.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of intransitive

1612, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for intransitive

Late Latin intransitivus, from Latin in- + Late Latin transitivus transitive

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Time Traveler for intransitive

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The first known use of intransitive was in 1612

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Dictionary Entries Near intransitive

in transition



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Statistics for intransitive

Last Updated

23 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Intransitive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for intransitive


in·​tran·​si·​tive | \ in-ˈtran-sə-tiv How to pronounce intransitive (audio) , -ˈtran-zə- \

Kids Definition of intransitive

: not having or containing a direct object In "the bird flies," the word "flies" is an intransitive verb.

More from Merriam-Webster on intransitive

Nglish: Translation of intransitive for Spanish Speakers


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