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Learn to Write English Clearly and Correctly

 Set 3 - Lesson 6  ( Go to the Answer Key )

Lesson 6, N+TV+N, or Who does What to Whom:

This type of sentence consists of a Subject Noun plus a Transitive Verb plus an Object Noun.

  • The Subject Noun names who or what is performing the action in the sentence.  This job is usually done by a noun (see lesson 5), but it can also be done by a pronoun (he, she, I, we, etc.) or by certain verb forms (gerunds, gerund and infinitive phrases).
  • A Transitive Verb expresses an action that travels from the Subject Noun, the performer, to the Object Noun, which receives the action.
  • The Object Noun, or Direct Object,  just sits at the end of the sentence and waits for something to happen to it.  It receives whatever action the Subject Noun decides to perform.

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Subject Noun Transitive Verb Object Noun
Cowboys herd cattle.
The woman brushes her hair.
Jack married Jill.

In these sentences, cowboys, the woman and Jack are the ones doing something.  The cowboys herd, the woman brushes and Jack married, but they did not do these things to themselves.  That is where the Object nouns come in.  The cattle were herded, the hair was brushed and Jill was married.  Many other words can be added to a sentence to give more information - words to describe the Subject or Object nouns, words to tell us when, where, why  or how the action took place - but those additional words are not necessary to make the sentences complete.

How can you tell a Transitive Verb when you see one?  Sometimes it is easy, but sometimes it is not easy. Some verbs are ALWAYS transitive and will ALWAYS need an object noun.

  • push, throw, love, manufacture, take, punch, deliver, digest, carry, buy

When you are trying to figure out if a verb is transitive or not, you need to ask yourself whom or what.  Example:  I push whom? I push what?  If there is a logical answer to the question - I push my brother. or I push my car. - then the verb is transitive.  I throw what? I throw the ball.  I love whom? I love Tina. If there is no logical answer, then the verb is intransitive and that is another lesson. 

Many verbs can be both Transitive or Intransitive.  The difference is whether the subject is just doing the action or is doing the action to somebody or something else.

  • Greta swims each morning. (intransitive - Ask yourself if the sentence tells you what she swims, the job of a Transitive sentence, or where, why, how or when she swims, which is done by an Intransitive verb. It only tells when  she swims, each morning, )   Greta swims ten laps each morning. (transitive - what does she swim? ten laps)
  • Arthur dances.   (intransitive - he doesn't dance somebody and he doesn't dance something.  He just dances.)    Arthur dances the mambo. (transitive - what does he dance? the mambo)
  • We run for exercise.  (intransitive - why do we run? for exercise, but the sentence doesn't say WHAT we run.)     We run printing presses.  (transitive - what do we run? printing presses)

Exercise A: Circle ten words or phrases from the following list that could be the subjects of a sentence.  Write the words in the boxes.


Exercise B: Circle ten words from the list that could be transitive verbs.  Write them in the boxes.


Exercise C: Circle ten words from the list that could be object nouns.  Write them in the boxes.


Exercise D: Fill in the correct kind of word to complete each of these sentences.

1. Jack and Sam _______________ their car to get it started.

2. ____________________ carried six loads of bricks.

3. Dr. Solomon will examine _________________________________.

4. _______________________ sweeps the floor every morning.

5. The large rat chewed _______________________________________.

6. The jet fighter _________________________ the secret hideout.

7. I always count ________________________________________.

8. ______________________________ was carrying newspapers.

9. Ten bald men ________________________ their bowling balls.

10. _________________________ grabs the chicken leg.

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Examination: Make up 5 sentences from the words you put in the boxes in Exercises A, B and C.  Some of the sentences may be silly, but that is ok.  The important thing is to have the correct parts in the correct positions in the sentences.  Write them on the following lines.

1. ________________________________________________________________




5. __________________________________________________________________

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