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Transitive Verbs

WHAT DOES "TRANSITIVE" MEAN?

transitive
Verbs Late Latin transitivus, from Latin transitus (past participle of transire to cross over, pass) + -ivus -ive

When you think of "transit," you perhaps visualize "mass transit": people moving across distances from place to place, being carried to destinations.  The prefix trans- is frequently used to suggest something going across: transcontinental; transportation; transcendental; transformation; transitory; etc.  Transitive verbs, therefore, move or "carry over" action onto an object.

Transitive verbs answer the question,
"What does one thing do to another?"

English grammar complicates this "doing to another" by suggesting that action can carry over directly or indirectly. This is explained by direct objects and indirect objects. Students understandably grapple with the rules of direct and indirect objects because, in truth, the whole concept of the indirect object is just made up:  it's a convenient shortcut that makes the object from a prepositional phrase a secondary predicate object. 

We offered to him some sound financial advice.

versus

We offered him some sound financial advice.

Regardless, the role of direct and indirect objects in the functioning of a sentence is now accepted, standard grammar.  Explaining indirect objects in this simple way, however, might at least lessen your anxiety about them.  

Direct Objects

Direct object verbs are "directly" affected by the action of a transitive verb:

Direct Objects

On the weekends, Michael works the projector at a local independent cinema.

Direct Objects

The action "works," in this case meaning "operates," carries over from "Michael" onto the object "projector."

Indirect Objects

Some transitive verbs take indirect objects as well as direct ones, creating the dative case. These verbs convey one or more things to another.

Indirect Objects

Here are the most common verbs with indirect objects:

assign
award
bring
fax
feed
give
grant
hand
lend
loan
mail
offer
owe
pass
promise
pay
read
serve
show
sell
send
show
sing
take
teach
tell
throw
wire
write

Spending hours in the projection booth gives me the time needed to complete my homework.

Indirect Object

In this example, "the time" is the direct object of the verb "give," while "me" is the indirect object. However, an indirect object is, in reality, simply the object of the preposition "to," which has been dropped to create the effect of an indirect object. If indirect objects confuse you, you can always restore the preposition "to" if you desire:

Spending hours in the projection booth gives to me the time needed to complete my homework.

Diagramming Direct and Indirect Objects

The removal or restoration of the phantom preposition "to" is the key to successfully diagramming a sentence whose verb takes, both, a direct and an indirect object.  You can choose to leave it out or put it back in and treat the indirect object as though it is the object of a preposition—whichever makes the role of the indirect object clearer to you. Regardless, it doesn't belong on the horizontal line with the direct object.  Note where the word "me" is placed in the following diagrams:


Spending hours in the projection booth gives to me the time needed to complete my homework.
 

Homework

Simplified

Last Updated: 02/08/2015

Contact

Karl J Sherlock
Associate Professor, English
Email: karl.sherlock@gcccd.edu
Phone: 619-644-7871

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