She doesn’t dare to leave the baby alone.

Is dare in this sentence transitive or intransitive?

Added by javalatte from comments posted below, because the OP does seem to have hit upon a confusing situation:

The British English definition in the Cambridge Dictionary seems to suggest that it's an intransitive verb, whereas the American English definition in the same place seems to suggest that it's transitive.

The entry in Merriam-Webster doesn't seem to shed any light on this at all.

  • Welcome to ELL! We expect people to do a little research before posting questions. If the research doesn't come up with the answers, they can post a question, quoting details of their research and explainng what specificially they don't understand. In this case, looking at a dictionary definition like this one might provide you with the information that you need: dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/dare. Note that in this dictionary a verb is marked as I for intransitive and T for transitive.
    – JavaLatte
    Jan 27, 2018 at 9:19
  • @JavaLatte Thank you. As I am not a native speaker, I also have the "simple" question. Then, could you tell me the dare is 'Vi.' or 'Vt.'?
    – jiexishede
    Jan 27, 2018 at 9:27
  • The transitive form has examples like this: "I dare you to...". you is the object, which is required for a transitive verb. Is there an object in your sentence- something between dare and to?
    – JavaLatte
    Jan 27, 2018 at 9:58
  • @JavaLatte The website you tell to me. dare American English: "She wouldn’t dare go out alone there at night." It is marked as T. I don't find an object.
    – jiexishede
    Jan 27, 2018 at 11:16
  • The sentence in your question has a to, but the AmE example does not. They clearly consider "go out alone there at night" as an object. Curiously, the AmE example with a to isn't marked as T or I. Well, that's confusing. Meanwhile, Merriam-webster doesn't provide any definitions that have a to but don't have a direct object. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dare. Add these links to your question and then ask an AmE native to explain it.
    – JavaLatte
    Jan 27, 2018 at 14:40

1 Answer 1


Merriam-Webster recognizes three uses of the verb "dare" in American English.

She doesn't dare go or she does not dare to go meaning she is afraid to go. MW classifies "dare" in these examples as an auxiliary verb.

It also gives an intransitive usage with the example of try it if you dare, meaning if you are not afraid.

Finally it gives a transitive use meaning to challenge someone: we dared him to climb the cliff.

I am not sure that there is any substantive difference in meaning between the intransitive usage and the auxiliary usage. If I were writing a dictionary, I'd probably lump them together with the meaning "dare = be unafraid, have the courage."

The transitive usage has a different meaning, namely "dare = challenge."

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