Determining whether a verb is transitive or intransitive can be difficult. Recently I learned that the passive voice only applies to transitive verbs.

So my question is: if I am unable to put a sentence into the passive voice does that mean its verb is intransitive?

  1. (1a.) Al runs the market = (1b.) The market is run by Al, but:
  2. (2a.) Al runs to the market ≠ (2b.) “The market is run to by Al”
  • 2
    Yes, essentially. "Run" is transitive in (1a) but intransitive in (2a), and hence cannot be passivised. There are, however, some transitive verbs that cannot be passivised, e.g. "want" in "I want a new car", but not *"A new car is wanted by me". The fact that we can’t passivise is a lexical property of “want”: there are a fair number of exceptions to passivisation, e.g. “John would like them to help him”, but not *"Them to help him would be liked by John". – BillJ Jul 13 at 10:57
  • 1
    @BillJ your answer to my question is a clear "no," and the examples you provide are convincing. The "transitivity test" I usually encounter (Asking 'what?' or 'who?' concerning the verb") works fine with both of them, so I guess I'll go back to that. Since you posted as a comment instead of an answer I don't see how to mark this as "answered." – Tony M Jul 13 at 11:19
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    You might be interested in this question which deals with the passivisation of intransitive verbs: english.stackexchange.com/questions/369477/… – Shoe Jul 13 at 11:26
  • I disagree that intransitive verbs cannot be passivized (The route to the market is run by Al.), and I also disagree with some of the examples given in these comments. However, such conclusions are open to interpretation. – Jason Bassford Jul 13 at 15:11

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