I have been meaning to make a video about the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs in German and English for a very long time. I always wanted to add this to the list of German grammatical jargon terms that I have explained in previous videos, but it never really fit into the schedule, so I just decided to upload it as a Saturday special instead of waiting until it fit. Watch the video below to learn the general idea. Support me on Patreon to check your knowledge with a worksheet. Scroll below the video to see more examples and another explanation of the topic.
Transitive verbs are the ones that take direct objects. In some instances they require them, meaning that these verbs must have a direct object. Other times the verb doesn’t have to take a direct object, but it usually does. This effects the German language in two ways. First of all, the accusative case is used to identify direct objects. If the noun is masculine, the definite article (word for “the”) changes from “der” to “den” and the indefinite article (word for “a” or “an”) changes from “ein” to “einen”. The other definite articles don’t change in the accusative case. The biggest change happens to the pronouns. These are the words that you use to replace nouns. Almost all of the pronouns change in the accusative case. The two images below show the changes from the nominative case (used for the subject) and the accusative case.
Now let’s look at some example sentences with these definite articles and personal pronouns in the nominative and accusative case.
Der Ball ist rund. – The ball is round.
Der Baseballspieler wirft den Ball. – The baseball player throws the ball.
Ein Fußball ist schwarz und weiß. – A soccer ball is black and white.
Der Fußballspieler tritt einen Fußball. – The soccer player kicks the soccer ball.
Meine Mutter mag mich nicht. – My mother doesn’t like me.
Ich mag dich. – I like you.
Dieser Spielzeugdinosaurier ist sehr alt. Ich habe ihn bekommen, als ich 6 Jahre alt war. – This toy dinosaur is very old. I got it when I was 6 years old.
Wir haben früher dort gewohnt. Kennst du uns noch? – We used to live there. Do you still know us?
Ihr seid so laut. Ich hasse euch. – You are so loud. I hate you.
Present Perfect (das Perfekt)
The more important reason to know the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs is when you get to the present perfect tense (das Perfekt). Transitive verbs use a form of “haben” whereas intransitive verbs use a form of “sein”. Usually this means that motion verbs use “sein” and non-motion verbs use “haben”, but the verb “bleiben” means to remain or stay and is an intransitive verb, which means it uses a form of “sein”. Keep in mind that the verbs don’t have to have a direct object in the sentence in order to use “haben”. If a verb is usually transitive, it is going to use “haben”.
Bist du brav gewesen? – Were you well-behaved?
Was habe ich dir gesagt? – What did I tell you?
Wir haben dir einen Kuchen gebacken. – We baked you a cake.
Was hast du deinem Vater gegeben? – What did you give your father?
Meine Freundin ist jedes Wochenende zu mir gekommen. – My girlfriend came over to my house every weekend.
Wohin bist du gegangen? – Where did you go?
Mein Hund ist immer zu Hause geblieben. – My dog always stayed home.