Wednesday, April 13, 2011

transitive and intransitive verbs: (to) take off

I hate the way English teachers describe the difference between a transitive and an intransitive verb. They - me included - say that "a transitive verb is a verb that takes an object." Now excuse me, but unless you're an English teacher, you probably don't know what that means.

It takes an object? Where does it take the object to? It takes an object to the movies?

So here is a little example, to help explain this concept:


My husband is standing by the front door at 7:00 a.m., and says, "Okay, honey, I'm going to take off."

What he means is that he is about to leave.  He is using the two-word verb "to take off" to mean "to go out".  The sentence ends, I say "Good bye; call me when you get to work" and he turns around and walks out the door.


It has been raining all day, and my husband returns from work, and comes in the front door. He is standing in the hallway and starts walking into the home. I call to him and say, "Honey, don't forget to take off your shoes!!!"

Now in the way in which I am using it, this two-word verb "to take off" is transitive:  He asks "To take off what???" and I call "your shoes". So the object of the verb "take off" is, in our situation, his shoes.

There are many verbs in English which, in some cases, are intransitive and in other cases are transitive.

An English sentence with an intransitive verb can be as short as two words: He left. It requires the subject of the sentence and the verb. An English sentence with a transitive verb must be at least three words long: The subject of the sentence, the verb, and the object of the verb.

This is an important concept:  We will show you more examples in future blog posts.

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