An ELT Glossary : Transitive and Ditransitive Verbs




  • Definition : A transitive verb is a verb which must be followed by an object.


  • Examples :   like - I like horses;  borrow - Can I borrow your pen


  • Some verbs, like those in the examples, are always transitive. Others can be used either transitively or intransitively  (without an object) - eg  study : He studies linguistics (transitive) or He studies every evening (intransitive).


  • Verbs which take both a direct and an indirect object are known as ditransitive verbs - eg 
           I gave John the book  :  John =  indirect object; the book = direct object
           I bought my grandmother some chocolates.  my grandmother = IO; some     
                                                                            chocolates = DO 

  • In English, ditransitive verbs can be used with a S-V-IO-DO structure as in the example above, or can be used transitively together with a prepositional phrase acting as adverbial  :
        I gave the book to John    /    I bought some chocolates for my grandmother



  • This means that two alternative passive structures are also possible :
        John was given the book  / The book was given to John


  • Most ditransitive verbs must be followed by a direct object - eg: 
        I gave John the book   but never in any context     *I gave John