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Learn to Write English Clearly and Correctly   

Set 3 - Lesson 7 ( Go to the Answer Key  )

Lesson 7, Noun + Intransitive Verb (N+IV) Sentences - I scream, you fly, we dance.

This sentence pattern consists of a Subject Noun and an Intransitive Verb.  We have explained Subject Nouns in other lessons, but have only touched on Intransitive Verbs.  The name itself means it cannot carry action across the sentence from the Subject to an Object.  That means that the action stops with the verb.  Examples: I sleep.  We think.  My mother wonders.  My father relaxes.  The subject performs the action and generally is the only one affected by it. 





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BUT, most sentences with Intransitive Verbs contain other words in addition to the subject and the verb.  These extra words will  either describe  the subject more fully or tell when, where, why or how the action took place.  Look at the following example.

  • John sings.  (This is complete and correct as it stands, but it does not tell us very much.)
  • John sings every Sunday. (Now we know when John sings.)
  • John sings every Sunday in church.  (Now we know when and where John sings.)
  • John sings with the choir every Sunday in church. (This gives us an idea of why he sings.)

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These additional words certainly tell us more about John's singing, but they do not change the fact that the original, basic sentence is John sings.  Here are some more examples.

  • We swim.  Fish jump.  Most children laugh.  Too many trucks crash.  Authors write.  Pythons swallow. 




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These examples include some verbs that can be both Intransitive and Transitive, depending on how they are used and what other elements are in the sentence.  Notice the differences.

  • We swim in the pool. (intransitive - no object to receive the action)   We swim ten laps in the pool. (transitive - 'laps' tells us what we swim)
  • Authors write. (intransitive)     Authors write novels.   (transitive)
  • Pythons swallow.   (intransitive)      Pythons swallow their prey.   (transitive)






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With each of the Intransitive sentences, if we ask , "We swim what?  Authors write what?  Pythons swallow what?",   there is no answer within the sentence.  With the other sentences, if we ask, "We swim what?"  the answer is right there - laps.  "Authors write what?  novels.  Pythons swallow what?  their prey."  That is the way you determine if a verb is transitive or intransitive.  A sentence with a transitive verb will provide an answer to the what/whom question, while a sentence with an intransitive verb can only answer "where?" or "when?" or "Why?" or "How?".

Exercise A: Put an X on the line after the verbs that are or can be Intransitive.  Use the What/When question to figure them out.

1. The cat yawned ___________ 6. My mother bakes _______________
2. We eat ____________ 7. I like ____________________)
3. The men carried ____________ 8. Boys can run ____________________
4. The actress cries ______________ 9. Apple trees grow __________________
5. Michael was sleeping ________________ The child broke ____________________

Exercise B: Below are ten words or phrases that answer the questions "When?, Where? Why? or How?" 

1. in the tree 2. quietly 3. very quickly 4. behind the barn 5. after his nap
6. on the park bench 7. every morning 8. late Saturday night 9. ferociously 10. into the river

Use these words or phrases to complete those sentences in Exercise A that have Intransitive Verbs.  Write the complete sentences on the lines below.  With the words or phrases that are left over, add your own subjects and verbs and write the complete sentences on the remaining lines below.  You should have ten complete sentences when you are finished.

1. ___________________________________________________________________

2. ___________________________________________________________________

3. ___________________________________________________________________

4. ____________________________________________________________________

5. ____________________________________________________________________

6.  ____________________________________________________________________

7. _____________________________________________________________________

8. _____________________________________________________________________

9. _____________________________________________________________________

10. ____________________________________________________________________

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Examination:  The following ten sentences contain Transitive verbs, with an Object to receive the action.  Rewrite each sentence using the same subject and verb while dropping the object of the verb, the receiver, and replacing it with words that answer Where? When? Why? or How?.

Examples:  Martin sang a love song.  (he sang what? a love song)  change it to Martin sang in the shower. (Martin sang where? in the shower.)

1. Frederick was running a good race.


2. The elephant eats leaves and grass.


3. The actress cried real tears.


4. Most professors teach a few classes.


5. The athlete swam several laps.


6. We roasted a large turkey.


7. Captain Harris flies a jet plane.


8. Alice is driving a new car.


9. Henry washes the dishes.


10. I speak French.


-The End-

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