English Teachers and Students: Take 30% off your first order using promo code "FirstOrder" at checkout! View all worksheets here

How to Teach Transitive and Intransitive Verbs (With Examples)

Understanding the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs is a fundamental aspect of mastering English grammar. This knowledge is crucial as it influences sentence structure, clarity of expression, and the overall understanding of language. One of the greatest ways to master it is by employing activities for teaching transitive and intransitive verbs. Keep reading to learn how to teach transitive and intransitive verbs.

For language learners and native speakers alike, distinguishing between these two types of verbs enhances writing and speaking skills, enabling more precise and effective communication. By grasping this concept, learners can construct grammatically correct sentences and convey their thoughts more accurately, which is vital for academic success, professional communication, and everyday interactions.

View all of our Verb Worksheets

What are Transitive and Intransitive Verbs?

Most verbs can be categorized into two types: transitive and intransitive verbs.

Transitive verbs require a direct object to complete their meaning. It’s absolutely required for transitive verbs to be associated with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase (be it direct or indirect) in order for a sentence to make sense.

Here’s an example:

activities for teaching transitive and intransitive verbs

Intransitive verbs, in contrast, do not need a direct object to complete their meaning. It’s not required for intransitive verbs to be associated with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase for it to make sense.

Here’s an example:

activities for teaching transitive and intransitive verbs

Note: Intransitive verbs can include other information such as an adverb or prepositional phrase. In the example above, the word peacefully is an adverb added after the intransitive verbs sleeps. 

Who can benefit in learning transitive and intransitive verbs?

Transitive and intransitive verbs, though seemingly straightforward, are crucial elements of grammar that significantly impact the clarity and effectiveness of communication. Mastering these types of verbs is beneficial for everyone, as it enhances understanding of sentence structure and meaning in language. Here are groups of people that can highly benefit from this knowledge:

ESL/EFL Students

For those learning English as a second language, understanding these verbs is essential for mastering sentence structure and improving overall communication skills. Additionally, this knowledge empowers learners to express their ideas more clearly and accurately, enhancing both their comprehension and ability to engage in more complex conversations.

Young Learners

From elementary to higher education, students benefit as this knowledge is crucial for grammatical accuracy in writing and understanding reading materials. Moreover, this understanding forms a foundation for advanced language studies and critical thinking skills, essential for academic success across various disciplines.

Writers and Journalists

Clarity and precision in writing are key in these professions. Knowing how to use transitive and intransitive verbs appropriately can enhance the quality of their writing. Additionally, this knowledge aids in creating more engaging and impactful narratives, essential for capturing and retaining the audience’s attention.

Non-Native English Speakers

For those working in English-speaking environments, understanding these verbs can improve their proficiency and confidence in everyday communication. Furthermore, this grasp of verb usage also facilitates clearer and more effective interactions in professional settings, from emails and reports to presentations and meetings.

Special Education Students

For SPED students, learning the correct use of transitive and intransitive verbs can significantly enhance their ability to express thoughts and needs. Additionally, gaining a deeper understanding of these verb types can boost their confidence in social interactions and communication with others.

Public Speakers and Presenters

Effective communication is vital in public speaking, and mastery of verb types can aid in delivering clearer and more impactful speeches. Additionally, this understanding allows speakers to vary their sentence structure, making their speeches more dynamic and engaging for the audience.

Professionals in International Business

In global business environments, clear communication is crucial, and understanding the nuances of verb usage can facilitate better interaction and negotiation. This knowledge also aids in crafting precise and persuasive business proposals, emails, and contracts, enhancing professionalism and effectiveness in international dealings.

Translators and Interpreters

They need a deep understanding of grammar, including verb types, to accurately translate or interpret between languages. This proficiency ensures not only the linguistic accuracy but also the cultural and contextual appropriateness of their translations and interpretations.

Learning about these verbs offers numerous benefits, ranging from building a solid grammatical foundation for young students to enhancing communication skills for adults and students with special needs. Dedicating time to understanding the usage of these verbs by employing activities for teaching transitive and intransitive verbs is a valuable investment in language mastery and effective communication. This knowledge is crucial whether it’s applied in academic settings, professional environments, or for personal development.

Teaching Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Teaching transitive and intransitive verbs can sometimes be challenging, and it may also confuse students. To ensure that students grasp the concept of these verbs, it’s important to begin by identifying and understanding the most common transitive and intransitive verbs used in the English language.

Transitive Verbs

Here are some of the most common transitive verbs in the English language with sentence examples:

Eat: “She eats an apple.” Send: “He sends an email.”
Write: “He writes a letter.” Make: “They make a cake.”
Throw: “They throw the ball.” Buy: “I buy groceries.”
Read: “I read the book.” Show: “She shows me the picture.”
Bring: “She brings her friend to the party.” Tell: “He tells a story.”

Intransitive Verbs

Here are some of the most common intransitive verbs in the English language with sentence examples:

Sleep: “He sleeps peacefully.” Fall: “The leaves fall.”
Laugh: “She laughs loudly.” Cry: “The baby cries.”
Sit: “The dog sits.” Dance: “They dance together.”
Arrive: “They arrive at noon.” Run: “She runs fast.”
Go: “I go home.” Lie: “He lies on the bed.”

From the definition we have discussed above, intransitive verbs, do not need a direct object to complete their meaning but may contain adverbs and prepositional phrases. Adding these elements to a sentence will not change a verb’s intransitive nature, it will only add more detail to a sentence.

One great example on the list is the the intransitive verb “laughs”:

activities for teaching transitive and intransitive verbsTo easily identify which is a transitive verb or an intransitive verb in a sentence, always be on a lookout for a direct or indirect object in a sentence. If you found any, it means the verb in the sentence is a transitive verb. If you found none, then it’s an intransitive verb.

It’s also important to remember that transitive verbs could also contain adverbs and prepositional phrases just like intransitive verbs. Adding these will not change a transitive verbs nature, but will only give more detail to a sentence.

Here are examples:

activities for teaching transitive and intransitive verbs

In this sentence, “reads” is the transitive verb, “the magazine” is the direct object, and “quietly” is the adverb describing how the action is taking place.

In this sentence, “served” is the transitive verb, “the cake” is the direct object, and “on a plate” is the prepositional phrase describing where the action took place.

Activities for teaching transitive and intransitive verbs

To help fully grasp the idea of how these verbs work, here are activities for teaching transitive and intransitive verbs.

Activity 1: Fill in the blanks Transitive Verbs Exercise

Instructions: Each sentence below contains a blank space. Fill in the blank with an appropriate transitive verb. After completing the sentences, identify the direct object in each one. The first sentence is done to serve as an example.
Sentence Transitive Verb Direct Object
1.) She __________ the letter carefully. wrote the letter
2.) The teacher __________ a difficult question.
3.) He __________ his friend a gift for her birthday.
4.) The artist __________ a beautiful portrait.
5.) We __________ the room for the party.
6.) The gardener __________ the plants every morning.
7.) She __________ her opinion on the topic.
8.) The chef __________ the cake with frosting.
9.) The children __________ their toys before bed.
10.) They __________ a new song at the concert.
Answer key (for teachers)
1.) She __________ the letter carefully. wrote the letter
2.) The teacher __________ a difficult question. asked a difficult question
3.) He __________ his friend a gift for her birthday. gave a gift
4.) The artist __________ a beautiful portrait. painted a beautiful portrait
5.) We __________ the room for the party. decorated the room
6.) The gardener __________ the plants every morning. waters the plants
7.) She __________ her opinion on the topic. expressed her opinion
8.) The chef __________ the cake with frosting. frosted the cake
9.) The children __________ their toys before bed. tidied up their toys
10.) They __________ a new song at the concert. performed a new song

Activity 2: Transitive Verb Matching Exercise

Instructions: Below are two lists. List A contains transitive verbs, and List B contains potential direct objects. Match each transitive verb from List A with an appropriate direct object from List B to form meaningful sentences. After matching, write the complete sentences. The first item is done to serve as an example.
Transitive Verbs Direct Objects Answers Sentence
1.) Cook a. A book C Cook a meal.
2.) Read b. A car
3.) Paint c. A meal
4.) Drive d. Flowers
5.) Plant e. A canvas
Answer key (for teachers)
Transitive Verbs Direct Objects Answers Sentence
1.) Cook a. A book C Cook a meal.
2.) Read b. A car A Read a book.
3.) Paint c. A meal E Paint a canvas.
4.) Drive d. Flowers B Drive a car.
5.) Plant e. A canvas D Plant flowers.

Activity 3: Intransitive Verb Identification Exercise

Instructions: Below are sentences with verbs. Identify the verb and write it in the space provided. After identifying each verb, write yes in the space provided if it’s an intransitive verb and write no if it is not. The first sentence is done to serve as an example.
Sentence Verb Intransitive verb?
1.) The author wrote a new novel. wrote No
2.) The flowers bloomed in the garden.
3.) She brought her camera to capture the moment.
4.) The cat slept on the windowsill.
5.) He kicked the ball into the goal.
6.) The leaves fell from the tree.
7.) The teacher explained the lesson clearly.
8.) Birds fly south for the winter.
9.) She opened the window to let in fresh air.
10.) The sun rises early in the summer.
Answer key (for teachers)
Sentence Verb Intransitive verb?
1.) The author wrote a new novel. wrote No
2.) The flowers bloomed in the garden. bloomed Yes
3.) She brought her camera to capture the moment. brought No
4.) The cat slept on the windowsill. slept Yes
5.) He kicked the ball into the goal. kicked No
6.) The leaves fell from the tree. fell Yes
7.) The teacher explained the lesson clearly. explained No
8.) Birds fly south for the winter. fly Yes
9.) She opened the window to let in fresh air. opened No
10.) The sun rises early in the summer. rises Yes

Activity 4: Verb Usage Exercise

Instructions: Below are sentences with blanks. Fill in each blank with one of the verbs provided, determining whether it should be used transitively or intransitively. Indicate whether the verb is used transitively (T) or intransitively (I) in the sentence. Then explain why it’s either an intransitive verb or a transitive verb by identifying what is the direct object in the sentence, if there’s is none, write none. The first sentence is done to serve as an example.
List of Verbs: eat, run, play, drive, grow, sing, wash, throw, sit, fly
Sentence T/I What is the direct object?
1.) I __________ my hands before dinner. T my hands
2.) Birds __________ in the sky.
3.) She __________ a beautiful song.
4.) The children __________ on the playground.
5.) He __________ the car every weekend.
6.) They __________ a party for her birthday.
7.) Flowers __________ in the garden.
8.) She __________ pasta for dinner.
9.) The athlete __________ in the marathon.
10.) He __________ the ball to his friend.
Answer key (for teachers)
1.) I wash my hands before dinner. T my hands
2.) Birds fly in the sky. I none
3.) She sang a beautiful song. T a beautiful song
4.) The children played on the playground. I none
5.) He drives the car every weekend. T the car
6.) They throw a party for her birthday. T a party
7.) Flowers grow in the garden. I none
8.) She eats pasta for dinner. T pasta
9.) The athlete runs in the marathon. I none
10.) He threw the ball to his friend. T the ball

Final Thoughts on Teaching Transitive and Intransitive Verbs to Your Students

Thank you for exploring this resource on how to teach transitive and intransitive verbs to your students. Introducing lessons on these types of verbs is crucial in English language education, as it provides students with essential tools for constructing meaningful and grammatically correct sentences. Learning how to identify and use these verbs by incorporating activities for teaching transitive and intransitive verbs enables students to understand different sentence structures. This knowledge is vital for comprehending how verbs interact with objects, or how they stand alone to convey action or states of being. Such understanding not only enhances their grasp of sentence composition but also enriches their communication skills, especially in situations that demand nuanced expression. Mastery of transitive and intransitive verbs allows students to express their thoughts and intentions with greater clarity and confidence.

Utilizing resources like EnglishLearningByPro, which offers accessible and flexible materials, enables teachers to customize their teaching strategies to suit the varied needs of their students. The ultimate aim is to enable students to confidently utilize helping verbs, thereby enhancing their communication skills in both spoken and written English.

EnglishLearningByPro helps English teachers around the world better serve their students. Our English worksheets (Editable, Fillable, Printable PDFs) are perfect for English students (ESL, ESOL, ELL, and more) and teachers (TESOL, TESL, TEFL, and more). Our English worksheets can be downloaded and used for proficient English learning, giving you or your students the ability to fill them out on a digital device or print them out. If you have an English teaching business, add your listing free to let potential students find you. Thank you for supporting EnglishLearningByPro!

View all of our Verb Worksheets

John Bart
Author: John Bart

I am the co-owner of englishlearningbypro.com, a community built specifically for English teachers around the world trying to make a living teaching English. I have lived in Brazil for four years and had previously taught private English classes for three years. I am passionate about helping others, and making English teaching and learning easier.

Scroll to Top