A friend of mine is learning English. Today, while studying, we ran into a situation that I (as a native English speaker) don't know how to explain.

To think and to support are both transitive verbs. So, why do they seem to take very different objects? What's the exact grammatical term for this difference?

Wrong usages highlighted by *.

  • *I think her.
  • I support her.
  • I think about it.
  • *I support about it.
  • *I think running for president.
  • I support running for president.

Does think actually take a direct object? Or is there something else going on?

  • 1
    In the sentence, I think her, "think" is intransitive, you need preposition "about" to indicate the object of thought. Same like I think running for president, it's intransitive. I support about it is wrong because it is the object of the preposition(about), not the verb( support). Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 5:06
  • Oh! I see! think can be used intransitively, or transitively, and whether it is transitive or intransitive depends on what meaning of think I am trying to use. So, I think sweet thoughts is using think transitively. Right?
    – nneonneo
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 5:09
  • yes, that's right! Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 5:27

3 Answers 3


in the infinitive: "to think about" is a different verb than "to think"

what you're looking for is compound verb



support something
I support Arsenal.


think about something
I think about next summer when it snows.

the difference is popularized by the saying

Don't just think about it, do it!

  • That's useful - but I am trying to find out what the grammatical name of this difference is - so that I can look up all the words that behave like support vs. all the words that behave like think.
    – nneonneo
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 4:27
  • 1
    That isn't a saying... The Nike tag line is "Just do it!" If anything, the problem is you're mixing up your repetitive phrasing... "Don't think it, do it!" By using "it" in one place and "something" in the other, the entire thing falls flat.
    – Catija
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 4:29
  • It wasn't a reference to Nike. I've correct my saying, I was confused with "Don't just stand there, do something!" by Milly in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
    – Peter
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 5:24

To think and to support are both transitive verbs

Think isn't transitive. You can be fooled because what follows is a clause describing what was thought, and many times the connecting that is omitted.

I thought it wasn't there = I thought that it wasn't there (it is not an object of thought)

Prepositions go in front of indirect objects only when an direct object is also present and you specify that direct object first, and usually this preposition is to or for, rarely if ever about.

I gave the ball to her = I gave her the ball

For that same reason support about X doesn't work if X is the direct object.

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