Intransitivity (grammar)

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In contrast to transitive verbs, intransitive verbs do not bind a direct object (i.e. no accusative object in accusative languages and in case terminology such as German ).


  • "exist"
  • "snow"
  • “Essen”, on the other hand, is a transitive verb: “I eat a fish” (subject - predicate - accusative object).

Borderline cases

Unaccusative verbs are intransitive verbs with transitive features, which will be discussed further below.

“Actually” intransitive verbs can (in German - apparently) also appear with an accusative object, actually transitive without.

For intransitive verbs there are often nouns of the same word stem or word field , with which an accusative object can be formed, but only to reinforce the verb - see etymological figure , example “fighting a fight”.

More such cases are discussed in the article Transitivity (grammar) in the section Transitive Verbs and Transitive Sentences . Overall, the article presents the scientific distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs in much more detail.


A passivation is partly possible (except when a unakkusativisches verb present). This creates an impersonal construction, the impersonal passive .

Past participle

True intransitive verbs can form a so-called participle II, but this cannot be used as an adjective attribute or predicative, but only serves to form the analytically formed tenses perfect, past perfect and future tense II. So it is actually not a “participle “(Middle word) with property word-like properties (inflection, negativity, ability to increase). In this case the term supinum is occasionally used.

Unaccusative verbs , on the other hand, can form a real participle II, which, unlike the transitive verbs, relates to the subject of the active sentence and thus has an active character.

  • He deserted. (Perfect)
  • A deserted soldier (attributive; correct)


In ergative languages the subject is in the absolute in sentences with an intransitive verb , whereas in sentences with a transitive verb it is in the ergative and the object in the absolute.

For different grammatical types of intransitive verbs, see also the article unaccusative verb .


Web links

Wiktionary: intransitive verb  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Stolz: Ergativ for the bloodiest beginners. University of Bremen, pp. 1–12