What do you want to talk?

What do you want to talk? – transitive verbs and intransitive verbs


Look at the following dialogue.


A: What do you want to talk?

B: I want to talk love and friendship.


This simple talk is frequently heard on the public mikes in the chat room. Both speakers get their message across. However, they would sound more English if they put about behind talk.


Why should we use about behind the verb TALK? It appears a simple question on the surface. The answer to it, in fact, is a big grammar idea concerning English verbs.


Roughly we can put English verbs into two groups.


Group A are verbs that should take an object. These verbs are transitive.


— What songs do you like?

— I like pop songs.


— Who did you help first in the accident?

— I helped the driver first.


In the above two examples, the verbs LIKE and HELP are transitive verbs. The object of like is pop songs; and the object of helped is the driver.


Group B are verbs that cannot be followed directly by a noun. Most of them can occur alone. They are intransitive.


— When did the accident happen?

— It happened in the rush hour.


— Did you speak at the meeting?

— Yes, I did.


In the above examples, HAPPEN and SPEAK are intransitive. They occur in their sentence without a noun following them.


If we need to use a noun after an intransitive verb, we have to put a preposition between the intransitive verb and the noun.


— What is wrong with Jack?

— An accident has happened to him. He has been hospitalised.


— What do you want to talk about?

— I want to talk about love and friendship.


We learn a lot of such expressions of an intransitive verb + a preposition. It is more convenient to consider them as a whole. We use them like a transitive verb.


I came across an old photo when I was looking for my pen in the drawer.

I found an old photo when I was looking for my pen in the drawer.


Here in the first example, we can take COME ACROSS as a whole. The second example shows clearly that we can use a transitive verb find in its place.


If we are beginners of English, we tend to put a Chinese sentence word for word into English. Care has to be taken when we are doing so. In the Chinese language, the idea of transitive/intransitive is weak. It seems as if all Chinese verbs could be followed by a noun. If we are not certain whether a verb is transitive or intransitive, we should turn to a good dictionary for help. In most dictionaries, you may find vi and vt. Probably you have seen that vi is an abbreviation of intransitive verb and vt an abbreviation of transitive verb.


So the next time you start talking, ask your partner, "What would you like to talk about?"


Happy learning, friends!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mary
    Dec 20, 2007 @ 06:54:44

    tks ,  and merry christmas


  2. Teen
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 12:21:51



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