Transitive vs Intransitive Verbs: Italian grammar lesson 169

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direct and indirect object italian
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Transitive verbs in Italian

If you’ve been studying Italian you surely heard the terms “transitive” and “intransitive” when talking about verbs. Do you know what they are?

And do you understand the difference between them? If you still struggle with it, keep reading!

Transitive verbs are all the verbs that take a direct object. This means that their action “transits” onto something else.

A direct object answers the questions: CHI? (who?) CHE COSA? (what?)

Look at the example below:

Leonardo suona la chitarra.

Leonardo plays the guitar.

In this case, the action of suonare has a direct object (che cosa? – what?): la chitarra (the guitar).

Here is another example with the question “Chi?”

Ho chiamato (chi?) Paolo.

I called (who?) Paolo.

Intransitive verbs italian

Intransitive verbs in Italian

Intransitive verbs, on the other hand, do not need a direct object, as the action “stays” on the subject. It can, however, have indirect objects.

These, however, never answer the questions Chi? Che cosa? as direct objects do.

Have a look at the examples below:

Davide è andato in Francia.

Davide went to France.

Here, the action of andare only concerns the subject, Davide. It has no direct object. However, it has an indirect object that answers the question Dove? (Where?) à in Francia (to France).

Ha parlato con Francesco.

She/he spoke with Francesco.

This is another example of an intransitive verb, as the question it answers is Con chi? (With whom?).

Marco è uscito.

Marco went out.

In this case, the verb uscire has no object and is therefore intransitive.

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Transitive vs Intransitive: How to recognise them

As we’ve seen, transitive verbs always need a direct object (chi? che cosa?), while intransitive verbs can have either no object or have an indirect object (con chi? dove? come?).

Another way to recognize a transitive verb is to transform the sentence into a passive form, with the object becoming the subject. If you can do it, then the verb used is a transitive verb.

Leonardo suona la chitarra.

Leonardo plays the guitar.

becomes

La chitarra è suonata da Leonardo.

The guitar is played by Leonardo.

Nina cucina la pasta.

Nina cooks pasta.

becomes

La pasta è cucinata da Nina.

The pasta is cooked by Nina.

If you try doing this with an intransitive verb you’ll realise it isn’t possible, as they do not have a direct object that can be transformed into a subject!

Still translating in your head? Wanna speak Italian for real? Check out Stefano's courses to think directly in Italian and become fluent fast!

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