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

Definition of transitive

1 : characterized by having or containing a direct object a transitive verb
2 : being or relating to a relation with the property that if the relation holds between a first element and a second and between the second element and a third, it holds between the first and third elements equality is a transitive relation
3 : of, relating to, or characterized by transition

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from transitive

transitively adverb
transitiveness noun
transitivity \ ˌtran(t)-​sə-​ˈti-​və-​tē How to pronounce transitivity (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 transitive in a Sentence

In “I like pie” and “She makes hats,” the verbs “like” and “makes” are transitive.

Recent Examples on the Web

The verb fight is transitive here and does have an object. Quanta Magazine, "Solution: ‘The Bulldogs That Bulldogs Fight’," 16 May 2019 By the transitive property, a room full of Colombians had come to cheer for an iconic German side. Brad Rickman, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Loneliness of the American Soccer Fan," 15 June 2018 But as Abby later explained it, because Bates had beaten St. Olaf in pool play and Williams had beaten Bates at the regional tournament earlier in the season, by the Ultimate transitive property, Williams was now the national champion. Michael W. Miller, WSJ, "A Clueless Dad’s Strange Trip to the Ultimate Tournament," 24 May 2018 So, by the transitive property, Ohio State > Michigan State > Michigan, right? Kirkland Crawford, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football a bigger underdog to Ohio State than Michigan State," 24 May 2018 Apply the transitive property and boom, sandwiches don’t exist without a serrated knife. Elaheh Nozari, Bon Appetit, "This Is the Serrated Knife to End All Serrated Knives," 26 Feb. 2018 The transitive-property arguments – if the last-place team in the Big East can beat the No. 4 team in America, etc. etc. Patrick Brennan,, "What's St. John's upset of No. 4 Duke mean for Xavier, Big East?," 3 Feb. 2018 Through the transitive property, UCF declared itself the real national champions, and that includes the team’s Twitter name and bio. Michelle R. Martinelli, For The Win, "UCF proclaims itself the national champion after perfect 13-0 season," 3 Jan. 2018 So, by the transitive principle of good black folks equals good movies, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a very good movie, mostly because of what happens with Finn, played by teen-geek heartthrob John Boyega. Jason Johnson, The Root, "In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, John Boyega, People of Color Get to Shine in a Galaxy Far, Far Away," 15 Dec. 2017

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

See More

First Known Use of transitive

1590, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for transitive

Late Latin transitivus, from Latin transitus, past participle of transire

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about transitive

Statistics for transitive

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for transitive

The first known use of transitive was in 1590

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for transitive



English Language Learners Definition of transitive

grammar, of a verb : having or taking a direct object


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

Kids Definition of transitive

: having or containing a direct object transitive verbs

More from Merriam-Webster on transitive

Spanish Central: Translation of transitive

Nglish: Translation of transitive for Spanish Speakers

Comments on transitive

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


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!