I’ve been researching transitive verbs versus intransitive verbs, and I found some definitions and examples for each in Google Translate that confuse me. I have attached those definition images below for your reference.

Transitive verb:

able to take a direct object (expressed or implied), e.g., saw in he saw the donkey.

definition of transitive

Intransitive verb:

not taking a direct object, e.g., look in look at the sky.

definition of intransitive

I can understand why saw in the saw the donkey is used transitively because it takes the direct object donkey, but I can't understand why look in look at the sky is used intransitively. It also takes the direct object sky, right?

Likewise, please explain these examples:

  1. Our cat lived till he was 10 - Transitive

  2. He was living a life of luxury abroad - Intransitive

I found those examples in the article "Transitive and intransitive verbs" from Oxford Dictionaries.

To me, lived in the first example seems intransitive because it has no direct object, while living a life in the second example seems transitive because it has a direct object a life. However the website shows the opposite.

Question update: I also need some help with other questions I’ve asked in the answers section (just to split this big question into smaller questions for clearer understanding)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Dec 17, 2017 at 21:48
  • "He was living a life of luxury abroad" - this comes under the very special exception to intransitive verbs not taking Direct Objects. They can have a Direct Object if it is a cognate noun (i.e. a word that is just the noun "equivalent" of the same concept). Here is a reference which gives many more examples: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognate_object Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 5:09

3 Answers 3


Sometimes the fine points of linguistic distinctions can seem pretty artificial to those unfamiliar with the intricacies of the subject. I expect the verb "to look" is considered intransitive because it requires an adverb to indicate direction or focus, e.g. "at the sky", "toward the running horses", "over the wall" etc.

To compound the confusion, look can sometimes take an object:

He looked me in the eye and, to my shock and dismay, told me he was my father.

I do not know if this usage officially qualifies as transitive. Cambridge dictionary seems to call it a "linking verb" instead.

Meanwhile, "Our cat lived till he was 10" is possibly considered transitive because of the unspoken object "its life"

Our grandmother lived (her life) to the fullest.

I expect some linguists disagree with this classification, though.

  • "He looked me in the eye" I have one doubt in this example. Is it Ditransitive? Because in that example, "in the eye" is the direct object and "me" is the indirect object.? (or) is it Transitive? Because "me" is the direct object and "in the eye" is a prepositional phrase? Which one is correct?
    – Raj 33
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 4:24
  • 1
    @Raj33 I'm tempted to put a bounty on this question just so we can get those kind of answers.
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 5:28
  • 1
    @Raj33 "in the eye" is not the direct object of "look me in the eye". It's the same as "at the sky" in your original question (it's an adverb phrase modifying "look"). I think that disqualifies it from being a distransitive verb, but I'm not sure -- and, if not, then I don't know what it is.
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 7:48

I found this attachment in Google and it really helped me a lot to understand the transitive, intransitive, ditransitive, and resultative verbs:


However I still do not understand.


enter image description here

I found this explanation in the book "Oxford Guide to English Grammar"

After some transitive verbs we can leave out the object when it would add little or nothing to the meaning.

My question is, would you still call them transitive?

What about this example:

Our cat lived till he was 10


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