Types of Verbs – Living and Dying

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Most people don’t like to talk about death but it is a reality which we must all face. The body dies of course but the soul will live forever in another world.

The Grammar of Killing and Dying

The verbs “to kill” and “to die” are important. Look at these example sentences:

Freddie Mercury died.

John Lennon was killed.

Freddie Mercury and John Lennon were both singers and they are both dead but they died in different ways. Freddie Mercury died of an illness but John Lennon was killed by an assassin. Somebody shot him.

Passive and Active Verbs

“To die” is an intransitive verb but “to kill” is a transitive verb. Look again at the structure of the above sentences about John Lennon and Freddie Mercury:

Freddie died.

John was killed.

We see that in the second sentence the verb phrase consists of a “be” verb (was) plus a past participle (killed) while in the first sentence, the verb stands alone as a simple past form with no object.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

We can convert the second sentence to an active form:

An assassin killed Lennon.

But we cannot change:

Freddie died.”

“To die” is an intransitive verb. This means it does not have an object. The normal pattern of a sentence in English is subject/verb/object but in this sentence there is no object.

Freddie died.

Freddie is the subject (or doer) of the action and there is no object. Verbs with no object are called intransitive verbs while verbs with an object like in “the assassin killed Lennon” are called transitive verbs because the action travels from the subject (the doer of the action) to the object (the receiver of the action. Look at some more examples:

I love you.
Japanese people eat a lot of fish.
Somebody ate my lunch.
I study English.
Margaret opened the door.

In each case the action (the verb) has a subject, which comes before it in the sentence and an object, which comes after it in the sentence.

The distinction between a transitive verb and an intransitive verb is a fundamental distinction. It is usually marked in a dictionary. It is important because transitive verbs can usually be used to form passive voice but intransitive verbs can never be used to form passive voice.

Forming Passive Voice

Look at these examples of passive voice:

I gave him the book.
The book was given to him (by me).

Chris opened the door.
The door was opened (by Chris).

Brazilians speak Portuguese.
Portuguese is spoken in Brazil. (by Brazilians)

In each case the first sentence is active with a simple subject/verb/object pattern while the second sentence is passive with the object from the previous sentence converted into the subject of the new (passive) sentence and the subject of the previous sentence has become the agent with the preposition “by”.

The Importance of Learning Language in Context

When you learn a new verb, try to learn it in a sentence and try to take notice of whether it is a transitive verb or an intransitive verb.

Listen to Freddie sing one of his Greatest Songs
I want to break Free

Follow the Links to learn more Vocabulary

The Prayer – Lives of a Man

Life is Beautiful

Vocabulary is the Key

Birth and Death
Much of Meaning is in Context

John Lennon You got to hide your love away

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