Definition of transitive
- a transitive verb
- equality is a transitive relation
In “I like pie” and “She makes hats,” the verbs “like” and “makes” are transitive.
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.
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.
First Known Use: 1590See Words from the same year
What made you want to look up transitive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).