In linguistics, the transitivity of a verb refers to whether or not it can take any object nouns, and the type or types of such which can apply to it. There are generally three degrees of transitivity for a verb:

  • transitive: a transitive verb is one which can take a direct object. For example, the verb eat, as in, "John ate a sandwich", in which the noun phrase "a sandwich" is the direct object of the verb "eat".

  • intransitive: an intransitive verb is one which cannot take a direct object. For example, the verb sleep; one can say "John was sleeping", "John slept until noon", or "John will sleep soon", but no direct object can ever be connected to this verb, as examples like "*1John slept a sandwich", "*John will sleep his dog", and "*John was sleeping a book" indicate.

  • ditransitive: a ditransitive verb can take both a direct object and an indirect object. An example is the verb give, as in "John gave a present to Mary", in which "a present" is the direct object of the verb and "(to) Mary" is the indirect object.




1. In linguistics, it is common practice to place asterisks next to example sentences using "awkward" or "incorrect" grammar.

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