While all verbs that take at least one object are considered transitive, verbs can be further classified by the number of objects they take. Verbs that require exactly one object are called monotransitive. Verbs that are able to take two objects, a direct object and an indirect object, are called ditransitive. An example in English is the verb to give. There are also a few verbs, like "to trade" in the English language, that may be called "tritransitive" because they take three objects.
In contrast to transitive verbs, some verbs take zero objects. Verbs that do not require an object are called intransitive; for example, consider the verb to die.
Verbs that can be used in an intransitive or transitive way are called ambitransitive. In English, an example is the verb to eat, since the sentences You eat (with an intransitive form) and You eat apples (a transitive form that has apples as the object) are both grammatically correct.
The valency of a verb is a related concept. The valency of a verb considers all the arguments the verb takes, including both the subject of the verb and all of the objects. In contrast to valency, the transitivity of a verb only considers the objects.
- Jugyō ga hajimaru.
- The class starts.
- Sensei ga jugyō o hajimeru.
- The teacher starts the class.
Due to Japanese's lack of syntactic information for the grammatical function of a noun phrase, the verb needs to indicate the number of arguments the sentence can take. In the above example, the verb 始まる (hajimaru) is an intransitive verb, taking only one argument, and 始める (hajimeru) a transitive verb, taking two arguments.
However, the definition of transitive verbs as those with one object is not universal, and is not used in grammars of many languages. For example, it is generally accepted in Polish grammar that transitive verbs are those that:
- Accept a direct object (in accusative in the positive form, and in genitive in the negative form)
- Undergo passive transformation
Both conditions are fulfilled in many instances of transitive verbs:
Maria widzi Jana (Mary sees John; Jana is the accusative form of Jan)
Jan jest widziany przez Marię (John is seen by Mary)
- Transitivity (grammar)
- Valency (linguistics)
- Verb argument
- Morphosyntactic alignment
- Kittila, Seppo (2007). "A typology of tritransitives: alignment types and motivations". Linguistics (Germany: Walter de Gruyter) 45 (3): 453–508. doi:10.1515/LING.2007.015.
- Tsujimura, N., ed. by Natalia Gagarina and I. Gülzow (2007). The acquisition of verbs and their grammar : the effect of particular languages. Dordrecht [u.a.]: Springer. p. 106. ISBN 978-1-4020-4336-9.