Share that transitive ain’t the same as intransitive!

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Author to reader:

“As I discuss, the whole point of the argument is…”
“She shared that her experience with whole-wheat bread has been…”

Oh, God. Please, please, please don’t write like that!

Often you see verb misuse of this ilk emanated by writers for whom English is a second language. They have an excuse. If you’re a native speaker, though, you don’t: in that case, what you’re emanating is not imperfect mastery of a bizarre language but just plain old jargon. It may appear in academic writing, where jargon is imagined to be state-of-the-art.

In English, verbs may be “transitive” or “intransitive.”

A transitive verb is said to “take an object.” It means the sense of the sentence moves directly through the verb to the noun or pronoun on the other side of the verb.

She saw a bird.
She spoke several words.
She discussed a proposition.
She drove her car.

An intransitive verb does not “take an object.” The action resides within the verb, all by itself.

The truth exists.
A river runs through it.
The accident happened last night.
She appeared to be inebriated.
He laughed because he was happy.

“Shared” is transitive: it takes an object. An object is a noun or pronoun, not a relative pronoun, relative adjective, or subordinating conjunction.

She shared a fact.
She shared an opinion.
She shared her experience.
She shared her clothes.
She shared her spaghetti.

But she did not share a dependent clause! She did not share “that yada yada yada.”

Similarly, “discussed” is transitive.

They discussed the movie.
They discussed the trip they planned to make.
They discussed Donald Trump’s hair.
They discussed the use of transitive and intransitive verbs.

But unless they were given to annoying affectations, they did not just sit around and “discuss.” Nor did they “discuss that…”

Some verbs are AC/DC this way: they may be used transitively or intransitively. For example, you could confide a secret (transitive: “secret” is the direct object of “confide”) or you could confide that you’re having an affair (intransitive: “that you’re having an affair” is a dependent clause, not an object of the verb). You could even intransitively confide in your best friend.

But share is not intransitive, except maybe as a moral precept passed from a parent to a selfish kid: Share, Jennifer! 

Neither is discuss, except possibly as an instruction in an essay question: Boxankle defines the Battle of Hastings as a turning point in Anglo-Saxon history. Discuss.”

When you write like this, blithely confusing transitive with intransitive verbs — and the lovely academics whose prose I edit often do so — you do not sound intellectual or generous-hearted or like a member of some high-brow in-group. You sound like you would benefit from a little more training in the English language.

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