For example, in the sentence, "he failed", failed is an example of an intransitive verb. Now, let's consider this. Instead of "he failed", let's rephrase the sentence as, "he failed the exam". Here, we have a clear subject[he], and an object[exam]. Therefore, would "failed" be considered an example of a transitive verb, now. Also, are there some examples of an intransitive verb that are strictly used as an intransitive verb, if IT IS POSSIBLE that intransitive verbs can be converted into transitive verbs. Also, also, how to expand my knowledge on "verbs". I'm currently reading "Wren and Martin". Thx

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    "Convert" is quite the wrong word, since there's no conversion involved. There are a great number of dual-transitivity verbs in English, verbs which occur in both transitive and intransitive constructions, "fail" being one of them; in fact such verbs greatly outnumber those that are restricted to just one or other of the two constructions. Strictly speaking, then, we should say that transitivity applies to the uses of verbs.
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 18:48
  • thx, this helped me. Yes, my main dilemma was if intransitive verbs, in changed context, be used an example of transitive verbs. Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 19:25
  • Possibly point (2) in my answer here will be of some help (Visser on the transitivation of intransitive verbs; a full analysis would be of enormous length). Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 15:38
  • The alternative is to use a preposition, e.g. "he failed at", "he disagreed with/about", "he replied to"...
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 13:29

3 Answers 3


There is no regular process in English for converting intransitive verbs to transitive, but it can often be done.

Two examples of verbs which, as far as I can think, can never take a direct object are exist and dine. But sleep (which you might think was archetypically intransitive) has a transitive meaning "accomodate for sleeping", as in This cabin sleeps eight people.

Then there's the vexed question of whether sentences like "He died a good death"; "They slept the sleep of the blessed" and "It's raining cats and dogs" should be analysed as transitive or not. Syntactically they are indistinguishable from transitive sentences, but the NP after the verb is not usually regarded as an object.

  • Colin -- Do you think a case could be made for "exist" being transitive in the presentational construction "There exists a great deal of antipathy between the two candidates". The NP "a great deal of antipathy" is an argument of the VP, and hence a complement, but perhaps not the right kind of complement to qualify as direct object?
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 19:20
  • @BillJ: not much of a case. The transform "A great deal of antipathy exists between the two candidates" stubbornly refuses to passivise the verb, even though the putative object has moved into subject position.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 23:45
  • @BillJ It seems clear to me that "a great deal of antipathy" is the subject of "exist". Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 16:18
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    "They wined and dined the candidate" is an interesting example of two verbs which are transitive when joined by "and", but not individually. Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 17:09
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    @PeterShor: in fact wine hardly exists as a verb except in this collocation. In many ways, wine and dine is a verb, though not in others.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 17:24

I usually just tack on the prefix 'be-' to any intransitive verb, and most people can understand me after processing what I said for a few seconds, even if the word sounds unusual.

There're already many words in the dictionary that have this methodology, such as 'get' and 'beget'.

But even words like 'play' can become 'beplay'.

Here's the word in a sample sentence:

"I beplayed him the new video game I told him about."


Some verbs can be used as transitive and intransitive as well. Example,

He runs a business. (Tr.) The business runs well. (Intr.)

The driver stopped the bus. (Tr.) The bus stopped. (Intr.)

It is not that one can change a verb from trans. to intrans., or vice versa, but there are a few that can be used as both transitive and intransitive as well.

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