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

Definition of intransitive 

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from intransitive

intransitively adverb
intransitiveness noun
intransitivity \(ˌ)in-​ˌtran(t)-​sə-​ˈti-​və-​tē, -​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

That’s how Theranos employees used the normally intransitive verb when someone was dismissed. John Carreyrou, WSJ, "Theranos Inc.’s Partners in Blood," 18 May 2018

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about intransitive

Share intransitive

Statistics for intransitive

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for intransitive

The first known use of intransitive was in 1612

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for intransitive



English Language Learners Definition of intransitive

grammar of a verb : not taking or having a direct object


in·​tran·​si·​tive | \in-ˈtran-sə-tiv, -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

Spanish Central: Translation of intransitive

Nglish: Translation of intransitive for Spanish Speakers

Comments on intransitive

What made you want to look up intransitive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!