I want any key or shortcut to distinguish between transitive and intransitive verbs.Wren and Martin says that when a verb is used transitively the action passes over.But what ai am inable to understand is how does it pass over ?

For example in a sentence "I looked down from my window." Is the action passing over ?

"Time changes all things." Is it transitive ?

Or if there's any other way or book recommended do inform me.

  • 2
    Can you tell us exactly what Wren and Martin said (and in which book or webpage)? By itself, "the action passes over" is a nebulous concept at best. Have you searched online for other resources that explain transitive/intransitive verbs and give examples?
    – Shoe
    Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 8:28
  • What do you mean by: passing over. transitive verbs are often action verbs
    – Lambie
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 20:09

2 Answers 2


Transitivity is not a semantic concept, but a syntactic one: any book which tries to define it in semantic terms is unhelpful. (It is also language-dependent).

There is not much about the semantics which will tell you that, in English, eat is usually transitive, but dine is always intransitive.


The trick is to find the "direct object" or the object that receives the action of the transitive verb. If you can find a direct object then the verb is transitive; if you can not find a direct object then the verb is intransitive (in- meaning there is no object to receive the action from the verb). http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/transitiveverb.htm http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/intransitiveverb.htm

  • But Allerton, in The Handbook of English Linguistics_eds Aarts and McMahon, claims that post-verb noun groups such as those appearing in 'The piano resembled a pianola.' / ... / 'The piano had a stool.' / 'The piano seemed an antique.' should not be considered objects but are 'best regarded as belonging to a slightly different category'. Though 'Many people like chocolate' uses a transitive non-action verb. Assuming Allerton's model is tenable, how does one identify a true direct object? Commented Mar 3, 2018 at 9:25

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