Words like “listen” and “shout” are intransitive verbs. Why are they used in passive sentences with prepositions like “to” and “at”?


  • She was never listened to.
  • I don’t like to be shouted at.

When intransitive verbs are used with prepositions, are they considered as transitive verbs?

  • 2
    Look up the "prepositional passive" construction, for example in Geoffrey Pullum's description of the passive on Language Log.
    – user230
    Aug 21, 2014 at 20:44
  • 2
    "Just listen to him", "Don't shout at me". Verbs like that need a preposition if there's an "object" (him, me). The fact of your examples being cast in the passive isn't relevant. Aug 21, 2014 at 20:49

1 Answer 1


There is no denying the fact that there are many intransitive verbs with prepositions like the ones provided in the above question that can be changed into the passive. Please refer to page 11 of an advanced English grammar, with exercises (George Lyman Kittredge) stating "that an intransitive verb followed by a preposition is often used in the passive, the object of the preposition becoming the subject of the verb". He gave the following examples: 1- I was run over by the cart. 2- He was laughed at by everybody. Moreover, in view of his statement, I don't think that when intransitive verbs are used with prepositions, they are considered transitive verbs.

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