An intransitive verb is an action verb, but it does not have a direct object. The action ends or is modified by an adverb or adverb phrase rather than being transferred to some person or object.
Typically, an adverb or prepositional phrase modifies an intransitive verb or the verb ends the sentence.
To determine whether a verb is intransitive ask whether the action is done in some way, in some direction or to some degree. Does a noun receive the action of the verb? If it does, then the verb is transitive and the person or thing that receives its action is the direct object.
[In the following examples, the intransitive verb is bold and the modifier is underlined.]
- The man decided against a plea bargain.
The subject (the man) did something (decided) a particular way (against).
- He refused because of his immaturity, not his lack of contrition.
The subject (He) did something (refused) for a particular reason (because of his immaturity).
- Alice complained bitterly.
The subject (Alice) did something (complained) to a particular degree (bitterly).
- At the end of the Roaring ’20s, the incarceration index rose slightly.
The subject (the index) did something (rose) in a particular direction (slightly).
- When faced with the problem, the scholar paused.
The subject (scholar) did something (paused) at a particular time (when faced with the problem).
- Earl fell.
The subject (Earl) did something (fell) and the action did not transfer to someone or something.
The adverb or prepositional phrase answers a question about the verb:
The subject did something WHERE?
- If Charlie had run into the street, he could have been injured.
- The turtle may live in a small area of Arizona.
- In 1973, the incarceration number inched upward.
- Jordan drove into the lane.
The subject did something WHEN?
- Thousands of cranes will return in the spring.
- The number climbed in 1974 and in 1975.
- Walter Payton died near the end of the century.
- The company’s leader collapsed during a meeting.
The subject did something HOW or TO WHAT DEGREE?
- The statistics come in any form you like.
- Politicians and the public are complaining loudly.
- His blood pressure kept climbing steadily.
- She worked with care and precision.
The subject did something WHY?
- Our elected officials listen because we vote.
- Shoshana’s grades improved with the help of a tutor.
- Germany’s expedition leader collapsed from the effort.
- Elise competed for her family.