2

Why is a verb that takes an object called transitive? Why does that term make sense?

The way I see it is that it extends its action to an object rather than limits it within the subject. I take this notion from the Arabic terms of intransitive (لازِم) meaning contained and (مُتَعَدّي) meaning transceding (I might have just made up that word). However, this notion has no sense of transition. Hence the question.

8

The grammatical sense of the word "transitive" comes from the Latin transitivus, which as you imply the idea of going (itus) across (trans). This is calqued from Hellenistic Greek μεταβατικός.

The most well known early use comes from the late Roman grammarian Priscian, who wrote the "Institutes of Grammar" (Institutiones Grammaticae) in the 6th century CE. Therein he writes that in transitive verbs the sense crossed over from one person to another, and explained that such verbs usually occurred with oblique cases (page 552 of the edition, PDF page 602):

nam μεταβατικά dicuntur, id est transitiva, quae ab alia ad alia transeunt personam, in quibus solent || obliqui casus adiungi verbis.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.