The Ultimate Guide to Transitive Verbs in Spanish
Have you ever noticed that when you check a verb in a dictionary there are always many mysteriously-looking abbreviations next to it? One of the most common ones are tr and intr and they appear next to almost all the verbs. They stand for transitive and intransitive verbs, respectively.
Today, I’ll tell you about transitive verbs in Spanish. It’s an important topic in Spanish grammar that will improve your understanding of how to use verbs correctly.
If you want to know what transitive verbs in Spanish are and how they’re different from the intransitive ones, keep reading! I’ll also give you a list of useful transitive verbs and I’ll show you how to use them in a sentence.
What Are Transitive Verbs in Spanish and How Are They Used
The good news for you is that transitive verbs in Spanish are similar to transitive verbs in English. You may not realize it by now, but keep reading to discover how much you already know.
Transitive verbs are the ones that need a direct object to complete them. Without it, the information is not complete. A direct object is a person or thing the subject performs an action upon.
Read more: Practice Direct Object Pronouns in Spanish with 10 Brainy Exercises
Look at a transitive verb comer (to eat). If your friend comes to you and says:
Para el postre como.
For dessert, I eat.
…you would expect him to complete this sentence, perhaps like this:
Para el postre como solamente manzanas para mantener mi dieta.
For dessert, I eat only apples to maintain my diet.
In the dictionary, transitive verbs in Spanish are usually marked with an abbreviation tr. But what can you do to know quickly if a verb is transitive or intransitive without checking them all?
Well, that’s easy. Simply, ask yourself a question ¿Qué? or ¿A quién? to determine if the verb has a direct object.
comer – ¿comer qué? — manzanas
to eat – to eat what? — apples
encontrar – ¿encontrar qué? — un tesoro
to find – to find what? — a treasure
amar – ¿amar a quién? — a los padres
to love – to love who? — your parents
Transitive verbs in Spanish are essential to understand the passive voice as this voice can only be created with these verbs.
Have you noticed the letter a that sometimes follows the transitive verbs? It’s a preposition called “personal A” and it must be used when the direct object of the transitive verb is a person.
Read more: How to Use the Personal A: Do’s and Don’ts
Veo a una chica tomando el té.
I see a girl drinking tea.
Veo un barco en el mar.
I see a ship in the sea.
Una chica (a girl) is a person, which requires the usage of personal a. However, un barco (a ship) is not a human being and you mustn’t use the personal a.
Transitive Verbs vs. Intransitive Verbs
On the other hand, intransitive verbs are the ones that do not need a direct object to give complete information.
Let’s have a look at the verb correr (run).
Mi hermano corre todos los días por la mañana.
My brother runs every day in the morning.
Can you ask ¿corre qué? (runs what?) Or ¿corre a quién? (runs who?). No, right? Todos los días por la mañana (every day in the morning) only tells you how often the activity occurs. Hence, the verb correr is intransitive in this meaning.
Why only in this meaning? Because some verbs can be transitive and intransitive depending on their meaning. The verb correr can also mean “to fire” and then it is transitive.
Mi jefe corrió a Juan.
My boss fired Juan.
Let’s check. Can we ask ¿corrió a quién? (fired who?) Yes, he fired Juan. Therefore, in this meaning correr is a transitive verb.
If you check the verb correr in a dictionary you can see in which meanings it’s intransitive, marked as intr, and in which meaning it becomes transitive. If you don’t have a dictionary nearby, do the ¿qué? ¿a quién? test.
Some intransitive verbs examples are:
- brillar (shine)
- doler (hurt)
- estornudar (sneeze)
- llover (rain)
- nevar (snow)
- ladrar (bark)
- nacer (be born)
- morir (die)
- sonreír (smile)
- viajar (travel)
A List of Transitive Verbs in Spanish
Let’s have a look at some transitive verbs in Spanish. Some of them are easy and you surely know them but some could be new for you.
|encender||To turn on|
|tomar||To take, to drink|
Example Sentences with Transitive Verbs in Spanish
It’s always easier to learn new vocabulary and grammar structure in context, so let’s take a look at some examples of transitive verbs in Spanish used in sentences.
Admiro mucho a mi abuela paterna por todo lo que consiguió en la vida.
I admire my paternal grandmother very much for everything she achieved in life.
El año pasado adquirí una propiedad en el extranjero.
Last year I acquired property abroad.
Conozco a mucha gente que no sabe comportarse.
I know a lot of people who don’t know how to behave.
Me debes mucho dinero y lo sabes.
You owe me a lot of money and you know it.
Tengo que decirte una cosa.
I have to tell you something.
No encuentro mis llaves, ¿me ayudas?
I can’t find my keys, can you help me?
La cirugía a corazón abierto entraña muchos riesgos.
Open-heart surgery carries a lot of risks.
Pon los libros en su lugar.
Put the books back.
Tenemos que preparar las maletas para el viaje.
We have to prepare the suitcases for the trip.
Me propuso matrimonio al lado del lago.
He proposed to me by the lake.
Quiero a mis hijos más que a mí misma.
I love my children more than myself.
No me quites mis méritos.
Don’t take away my merits.
Revocaron mi licencia de manejar.
They revoked my driver’s license.
¿Sabes una cosa?
You know what?
Tengo un perro y tres gatos.
I have a dog and three cats.
Por la mañana siempre tomo un vaso de agua tibia con limón.
In the morning, I always drink a glass of lukewarm water with lemon.
Ahora solamente nos queda decorar el pastel y listo!
Now we just need to decorate the cake and that’s it!
¿Puedes encender la chimenea, por favor?
Can you light the fireplace, please?
I know that transitive verbs in Spanish can take some time to learn as you need to master other grammar topics too, such as prepositions, and direct and indirect objects, and direct and indirect object pronouns but it’s an important step. If you want to practice transitive verbs in Spanish in combination with other grammar topics, sign up for a free class with one of our native, Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala to master them the fun way!
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Thank you. This is a very clear explanation indeed.
I’m glad this blog post was useful to you!