English Grammar

Another great grammar lesson with Grammar Revolutions Elisabeth O´Brian


Action Verbs Show Action

Can you recall the definition of a verb? Verbs are words that show actions or states of being.

Today, we’re going to focus on the “actions” part of that definition. Action verbs can show action in three ways. Let’s see how!

1. Intransitive Complete Verbs

The boy laughedMy sister sneezed.
My dog will bark.

The prefix in- means not. That is a helpful tidbit when it comes to understanding this type of verb.

INTRANSitive complete verbs do NOT TRANSfer action to anyone or anything. They show action, but they are complete all by themselves.

Diagramming Intransitive Complete Verbs

Draw a horizontal line and a short vertical line going through the horizontal line. Put the subject on the left side of the vertical line and the verb on the right side of the vertical line.

Cats will meow.

English Grammar Revolution
Diagram more intransitive complete verbs here.

2. Transitive Active Verbs

Mark kicked the ball. The dog scratched its back.
The wind rustled the leaves.

TRANSitive active verbs are action verbs that TRANSfer their action to something or someone.

With this kind of verb, the subject always performs the action, and the action is always transferred to someone or something.

Look at those example sentences again. Can you see that the subjects (Mark, dog, wind) are performing the action? Can you see that the verbs are transferring action to someone or something? Good!

The someone or something that receives the action of this verb type is called the direct object (ball, back, leaves).

Transitive active verbs must have direct objects. It’s a fact. They are bound together like mac and cheese or peanut butter and jelly.
Diagramming Transitive Active Verbs

You already know how to diagram subjects and verbs, so the only things that we need to add are the direct objects.

Extend the horizontal line past the verb and add a small vertical line just after the verb. Put the direct object on the horizontal line after the verb.

The baby kicked the ball.

English Grammar Revolution
Diagram more transitive active verbs here.

3. Transitive Passive Verbs

My car was stolen.The house was demolished.
The students were scolded.

TRANSitive passive verbs also TRANSfer their action to someone or something.

But, with this verb type, the subject is the one receiving the action, and sometimes we don’t even know who performed the action!

Look at those example sentences. Can you see that the subjects are all receiving the action? Good!

Did you also notice that none of those sentences tells us who or what is performing the action?

If you want to include the doer of the action with transitive passive verbs, you do so in a prepositional phrase that usually begins with the word by.

I’ll show you what I mean. Here are those same sentences, but this time, you’ll be able to see who or what performed the action.

My car was stolen by a thief. The house was demolished by the storm.
The students were scolded by their teacher.

Diagramming Transitive Passive Verbs

English Grammar Revolution
Diagram more transitive passive verbs here.


Thanks a million Elisabeth O´Brian 🙂


For more great grammar tips visit Elisabeth at her website