I was just watching a linguistics video in which it was stated that in the sentence "John loves Mary", the verb love requires the direct object Mary, implying that it would be incorrect to say simply "John loves". Now, what if I, a native speaker of English, disagree with this assertion? I think "John loves" is a perfectly good sentence. It means he loves in general.

Similarly, I think the sentence "I am" is complete, without any complement. I've seen this sentence often enough and it means I exist.

Now, I can foresee your responses: sentences such as "I am" and "John loves" are spiritual and poetic. So what if they are? Is the aim of linguistics to ban poetry?

I don't mean to be antagonistic, but I'm having some difficulty penetrating into the linguistic way of thinking.

A side note: I have seen it written in several places that a verb can be "both transitive and intransitive". How can this be? If a transitive verb is a verb that accepts an object, and an intransitive verb is one that does not, then these categories are mutually exclusive.

  • 5
    Love is an example of a verb that is both transitive and intransitive, meaning it can be used both with and without an object. A verb cannot be used both transitively and intransitively at the same time – that would indeed be a contradiction in terms – but there’s nothing mutually exclusive about one use of a verb being transitive and another intransitive. Aug 8, 2021 at 17:39
  • Is there a resource where I can look up the transitivity or intransitivity of different verbs? Aug 8, 2021 at 18:36
  • 2
    Most dictionaries will show transitivity for each verb in one way or another. In a given usage, a transitive verb will indeed be one that HAS an object. As an inherent property of the verb itself, ‘transitive’ normally means that it CAN have an object, because the vast majority of transitive verbs can also be used intransitively; few verbs are exclusively transitive. Aug 8, 2021 at 18:50
  • 2
    Worth mentioning that some linguists nowadays consider "transitive" and "intransitive" to be properties not of verbs but of constructions. In English, very many (maybe most?) verbs can enter into both constructions, though they may have a preference for one or the other. (BTW, the example "I am" isn't relevant to transitivity, because a complement isn't an object.)
    – TKR
    Aug 8, 2021 at 20:43
  • 1
    You have to consider the uses of the verb. "John loves" is intransitive since there is no object, while "John loves Mary" is transitive since "loves" has the object "Mary". The rule is: no object = intransitive -- simple as that!
    – BillJ
    Aug 9, 2021 at 6:37


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.