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Author Topic: Can an intransitive verb be made transitive by using an adverb?  (Read 60 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: December 07, 2017, 11:32:11 AM »

Question posted by Jitendra Yadav on my Forum Facebook Gateway, (December 6, 2017):

Sir can we make an intransitive verb a transitive one by using an adverb?

My reply to Jitendra:

That’s a very tough question that needs a lot of discussion to answer satisfactorily.

Recall that English has three types of verbs: transitive verbs, intransitive verbs, and linking verbs. A verb is transitive when it has the ability to pass on its action to an object or something that can receive that action; intransitive when it can’t pass on its action to anything in the sentence and simply dissipates that action in itself; and linking when it just connects a subject to a complement and makes the sentence flow properly.


Certain verbs, though, can be transitive or intransitive depending on their sense and usage in a sentence. For example, the verb “breaks” is transitive in “She often breaks the rule” because it needs a direct object—“rule”—in this case—for the sentence to make sense. On the other hand, the verb “breaks” is intransitive in “When dropped on a hard surface, glass breaks” because it needs no direct object for the sentence to make sense.

A number of verbs can also be intransitive or linking depending on their sense and usage in a sentence. For instance, the verb “appear” is intransitive in the sentence “The witness will appear in the Senate sometime next week to testify on the dengvaxia furor” but a linking verb in the sentence “The witness appears flustered as she testifies in court."

And then there are the so-called causative verbs such as “make,” “get,” “have,” and “let” that enable intransitive verbs to surmount their handicap of being unable to act on an object. Look at these three sentences: “She made the dog jump.” “She got the dog to jump.” “She had the dog jump.” “She let the dog jump.” It’s clear that the “dog” is the object of the verbs “made,” “got,” and “had,” “she” is the agent causing the action, and the action of the intransitive “jump” is what this agent causes the object to perform.

Now we are in a position to address your tough question: “Can we make an intransitive verb a transitive one by using an adverb?”

My answer is a categorical “No.” I don’t think we can make an intransitive verb a transitive one by using an adverb, but we can routinely modify an intransitive verb with an adverb, as in “She looked sleepily at me,” in much the same way that we can routinely modify an intransitive verb with an adjective, as in “She looked sleepy in class this morning.”

What all of these considerations are telling us is that a particular modification of a verb does not or can make it intransitive (or intransitive for that matter). The sense and nature of the verb remain the same regardless of the valid or grammatically allowable modifications that can be done to it.

RELATED READINGS:
Why some intransitive verbs appear to take an object
How the causatives enable intransitive verbs to overcome their intransitivity

« Last Edit: December 07, 2017, 11:39:41 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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