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Transitive, Intransitive, and Linking Verbs :: An Introduction

What are Transitive Verbs, Intransitive Verbs, and Linking Verbs?

This exercise was written by Erin Billy.

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First of all, if you're scared of the terms transitive, intransitive, and linking, don't worry. They're really not as bad as they sound. I remember hearing these words in junior high school and high school and not really understanding what they mean.

But some of these concepts are important for GMAT sentence correction and for the TOEFL.

First, look at some examples, and see if you can tell the difference already:

My sister broke the glass. (broke is a transitive verb)

My father cried. (cried is an intransitive verb)

My sister is a doctor. (is is a linking verb)

Can you figure out the difference between the verbs (broke, cried, is) in the above sentences? I'm not talking about the meaning, I'm talking about the grammar. In other words, how are these three verbs grammatically different?

We should notice that the first verb, broke, has another word after it (glass). The second verb, cried, does not have another word after it. So in one sense, we can say that all verbs in English can be divided into two groups -- those that must have a word (or words) after them and words that do not have to have any word after them.

The third verb, is, has a noun (doctor) after it, but in its grammatical function, it's different from the noun (glass) that comes after broke. Think about it -- in the first sentence, we are saying that my sister broke something, and that thing was the glass. So, glass is receiving the action of broke. In the third sentence, we are saying that my sister is a doctor -- doctor is not receving any action. In fact, doctor and sister are the same thing -- we are actually identifying sister with the word doctor. And the verb is that is between sister and doctor serves to connect the two nouns (sister and doctor). Verbs that function in this way are called linking verbs.

These rules are a bit simplified right now, but we will learn more later. For now, let's just focus on the simple ideas. And if all this stuff already makes sense to you, you're in good shape.

Let's look at the three different kinds of verbs in a bit more detail.

Learn about transitive verbs...

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