I was reading "Tunnels" and I found the next sentence:

  • ...walls were caked with efflorescence and streaked with chalky lime scale where fissures had seeped moisture.

I looked the word "seep" up on OED website, and it's said that "seep" is just intransitive. So why is "seep" being used as transitive in the sentence above? is it correct? perhaps it's an old use of that word?

If you didn't get what I tried to say, I'll explain it a bit more:

Transitives are the verbs which need an object, such as: I read a book. Intransitive do not need an object: I run yesterday. Seep according to OED is just intransitive, like blood seeping through the bandages. But the author used it as a transitive verb: "fissures had seeped moisture", this is like saying: moisture seeped through the fissures (this would be the correct one according to OED, but I'm not sure if the other one would be also correct).

1 Answer 1


The standard and historical use of the word would be "fissures through which moisture had seeped".

As you note, "seep" is generally intransitive, and the liquid is the subject of the verb, not the object. Of course language is always changing, and an inanimate subject like moisture can easily be shifted to the object. That is there is some evidence of expressions like "Why Do Basement Floor Cracks Seep Water?" and "the subsequent crack is seeping oil now."

This transitive use is new, and represents an ongoing grammar change in English. It seems that most dictionaries haven't caught this change yet.

  • 2
    Maybe it's because 'leaks', which means nearly the same thing, can be transitive or intransitive. Commented Mar 27, 2022 at 9:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .