Daily Archives: August 8, 2007

Grammar Wednesday

This post was inspired, because I lack imagination today, by opening my grammar students’ textbook at random and writing about what I find there.  I just happened to open to page 199, which teaches about transitive and intransitive verbs.

A sentence, to be complete, needs a subject and a verb, a capital letter at the beginning and some form of end punctuation, and it must express a complete thought.  It’s that “expressing a complete thought” bit that messes up most of my students – they find the subject and the verb, they find the beginning and end components, and they think they’re done.  Not so.  Take, for example, this structure:

I went to the post office and mailed.

We have a subject – I.  We have a couple of verbs joined by and – went and mailed.  We’ve got a capital letter and end punctuation, but what we don’t have is a complete thought – I went to the post office, check, but WHAT did I mail?  We need more information.  We need an object.

A transitive verb is one that requires an object to make sense of the sentence.   Mail, as a verb, requires an object; whatever it is that was mailed – a letter, a book, a bomb.  I teach the kids to ask “who or what” to find out if a verb is transitive.  “I went to the post office and mailed –  who or what? – a letter.”

An intransitive verb does not require an object to make sense.  “Mrs. Jessup sings.”  End of story – no more information is required.  We can certainly GIVE more information – Mrs. Jessup may sing opera or she may sing show tunes or she may sing badly – but we don’t NEED more information to make sense of the verb.

Sorry this week’s offering is kind of lame.  Remember that Grammar Wednesday fodder is always welcome!


Filed under Grammar