We all know what Verbs are, but there are three different classifications of Verbs.
- Transitive Verbs—Verbs that require objects to be complete.
- Intransitive Verbs—Verbs that do not require objects.
- Linking Verbs—Verbs that connect (or link) the subject of the sentence to a noun or adjective.
Let’s take these separately.
Transitive Verbs are verbs that have to do something to something. That have to is important because, technically, all verbs do something to something. Transitive verbs, however, need to have that something mentioned to be complete. For example: “The shelf holds.” Well, what does it hold? For that verb to be complete, it needs to hold something. Here’s a few more examples:
- The committee named.
- The child broke.
- He cut.
To make this more complex, there are many verbs that can be both transitive and intransitive. An example is the verb to hang. You could use it transitively (Hang him!) or intransitively (The picture was hung.). Also note that misused transitive verbs create odd sentences such as example 2 above.
Intransitive Verbs are verbs that don’t need to do something to something to make sense. For example: I arrived at work early. Here’s a few more examples:
- The sound carried across the room.
- My cat often lies on the porch.
- We must leave.
Linking Verbs connect the subject to a noun or adjective. These are easy. Linking Verbs are your standard to be verbs: am, is, are, was, were, became, become, appears, seems, and so on. There are a few tricky ones, but the key is to remember that linking verbs are verbs of sensation (feel, look, smell, sound, taste, and so on) or existence (act, appear, be, become, continue, grow, prove, remain, seem, sit, turn, and so on). Of course, you have to be careful because many linking verbs can be used as intransitive and transitive verbs. For example, let’s use the verb taste in multiple situations.
- Linking—The water in Kansas tastes terrible.
- Transitive—He tastes the soup.
The only real way to know the difference between the verbs is to identify what is happening. If the verb is telling you the state of sensation or existence of a thing, it is a linking verb. The nice thing with linking verbs is that you can check them by replacing the verb with a to be verb. If you can replace it, you are looking at a linking verb (The water in Kansas is terrible.).
If the verb has to tell you what the action is done to, it is transitive. If it doesn’t, it is intransitive.