Transitive or Intransitive?

Some verbs take a direct object. We call them transitive verbs. Other verbs don’t take a direct object; we call them intransitive verbs.

So: “The computer displays a window”—transitive. You have to display something, in this case, a window.
And: “When you press Enter, the window appears.”—intransitive. Well, “press” is transitive, and “appears” is intransitive.

And some verbs can go either way. You can say, “Let’s run!” and “Let’s run a race!”

Here’s an example of a verb phrase (work out) that go either way. I hope you don’t mind a big, complicated noun clause for the direct object…

Note that the transitive and intransitive meanings are quite a bit different, and therein lies the humor.

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.