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!