Sunday, September 7, 2008

Intransitive Verbs in Transition

Reading ESL pages can give you a new perspective on English grammar. In reading about particles, I ran across a page about phrasal verbs because the preposition portion of such verbs acts as a particle rather than serving as an actual preposition.

I was reminded of the terms "transitive" and "intransitive" for verbs, the former meaning a verb that takes an object and the latter indicating one that cannot. For this post, I am disregarding linking verbs, which are wholly passive and merely attach the predicate to the subject without any action on either part.

Many verbs act as either transitive or intransitive, depending on the context of the sentence. "This box holds my favorite records" would be incomplete without the object, but "The dam will hold" is not.

It turns out, though, that you can convert an intransitive verb into a transitive one, in many cases, simply by adding a preposition and making it a phrasal verb. (I bet you were wondering how I was going to tie together the two.) This I can write, perfectly grammatically, "She runs." If I add "with", then I have to write, "She runs with a bad crowd."

Using a phrasal verb converts the intransitive run into a verb that requires a direct object in order for the sentence to be complete. And, because this addition forces the further addition of a direct object but does not behave like a preposition, it's a particle.