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I do know the definition of transitive and intransitive verbs. But I have a doubt with respect to a specific example which is as follows:

  • Don't eat much.

I want to know whether in this sentence, the verb "eat" is transitive or intransitive. I have a doubt because "much" can be both a pronoun and an adverb. So, even without changing the meaning of the sentence, the verb "eat" can be interpreted as being a transitive verb, if "much" is assumed to be a pronoun, or alternatively if "much" is assumed to be an adverb, then "eat" becomes an intransitive verb. Or can "eat" be interpreted as being both transitive and intransitive in that one sentence?

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  • okay...i shall post it there....thanks a lot fev Jan 28 at 12:35
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    Strictly speaking, it's ambiguous. One interpretation has "much" as an adverb modifying "eat", where the meaning is roughly "too often", and "eat" is thus intransitive. On the other hand, "much" is a determiner in a fused-head NP, where the meaning is, roughly, "much food". Here, the NP "much" is object of the transitive verb "eat". However, neither version sounds wholly felicitous, probably because they are not especially natural ways of expressing either of the possible meanings.
    – BillJ
    Jan 28 at 13:20
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    This is certainly ELU rather than ELL material. Jan 28 at 13:29
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    The sentence is not "I didn't eat much", but the imperative "Don't each much". In the NP object reading, "much" is a fused-head NP, understood as "much food".
    – BillJ
    Jan 28 at 13:36
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    @EdwinAshworth: You are actually right, I've retracted my CV.
    – fev
    Jan 28 at 14:05
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To eat is ambitransitive.

"He sat down and ate"

"He sat down and ate his meal."

It is impossible to eat without eating something: an object can always be implied

There are hundreds of ambitransitive verbs in English, e.g. "I read [the book] for an hour" "He explained [the problem] and I understood [it]", etc.

I want to know whether in this sentence, the verb "eat" is transitive or intransitive. I have a doubt because "much" can be both a pronoun and an adverb.

Edit to add Unfortunately, that question cannot be answered without more context. If you add context, someone will answer. As it stands, it looks much like the verb is transitive.

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    You haven't explained the semantic and syntactic roles of "much" and how they affect the transitivity of "eat", which seems to be the OP's concern.
    – BillJ
    Jan 28 at 15:42
  • @BillJ The OP asks "Or can "eat" be interpreted as being both transitive and intransitive in that one sentence? What has been left unanswered if I have explained ambitransivity?
    – Greybeard
    Oct 26 at 9:26

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