Transitivity (/trænzətɪvəti/) is a property of verbs that relates to whether a verb can take a direct object, and if it can, whether it can take an addition indirect object. It is related to the concept of valency.
In English, verbs therefore may be used intransitively (without a direct object), or transitively (with one or more direct objects). And if used transitively, they may be used monotransitively (with one direct object) or ditransitively (with two objects, one indirect, one direct). Examples:
- “Sandy paid.” (a verb used intransitively)
- “Sandy paid me.” (a verb used transitively, a verb used monotransitively with one direct object)
- “Sandy paid me 10 dollars.” (a verb used transitively, a verb used ditransitively with one indirect object ("me") and one direct object ("10 dollars").)
An intransitive verb must be used intransitively, a transitive verb must be used transitively, and an ambitransitive verb may be used transitively or intransitively. Therefore not all verbs used transitively are transitive verbs, and not all verbs used intransitively are intransitive verbs. For clarity and unambiguity therefore, we have chosen to make this distinction between "transitive verb" and "verb used transitively" and between intransitive verb and "verb used intransitively.”
Some pedagogic grammars may however refer to “ditransitive verbs" and even "tritransitive verbs.”
A verb used ditransitively can be used as such only if it can undergo dative shift.