transitive: said of a (usually verbal) structure which has, expects, requires or permits a direct object. Contrast intransitive. Structures of various levels of complexity can be transitive, that is, the term "transitive" can describe stems, words, phrases, clauses, or sentences. [Spanish: transitivo]

The term is used in grammatical descriptions in at least the following ways:

transitive [1] (external transitivity): said of a verbal structure which has, expects, permits or requires a nominal [1] structure to function as its direct object. For example, the English verb (verbal word) "want" is transitive because it requires a pronoun like "it", a word like "coffee", or a phrase like "to arrive on time", which expresses what the subject wants. Similarly, the Orizaba Nawatl verb root "neki" 'want' is transitive because it needs an object prefix such as "ki-" 'it, him' or "mitz-" 'you' in order to form a complete verb. The verb "kineki" 'he/she wants it' is also transitive in this sense, because it permits (but does not require) an object at the level of the clause. For example, in the transitive clause "kineki se tamalli" 'he/she wants a tamale', "se tamalli" is the object of "kineki" 'he/she wants it'. [Spanish: transitivo [1]]

transitive [2] (internal transitivity): said of a structure which contains another transitive structure (in the first sense), together with its object. For example, the clause "She wants coffee" is transitive because it contains the transitive [1] verb "wants" together with its object, the word "coffee". Likewise, the Orizaba Nawatl verb "kineki" 'he/she wants it' is transitive in this sense because it contains the transitive [1] stem "neki" "want" together with its object, the prefix "ki-" 'it'. [Spanish: transitivo [2]]

transitive [3] (semantic transitivity): said of verbal meanings or concepts which involve a transfer of energy from the subject to the direct object. (The etymology of the term "transitive" emphasizes this idea of transfer or transmission.) This quality is gradual; some verbal concepts are more transitive than others. For example, the meaning of "hit" is more transitive than that of "touch", which in turn is more transitive than that of "forget". Meanings that are highly transitive tend to be expressed by transitive [1] verbs in the world's languages. [Spanish: transitivo [3]]

transitive [4] (non-verbal transitivity): The terms "transitive" and intransitive are also sometimes used to describe adpositions. In most languages, adpositions always have objects, but in some languages it makes sense to talk about adpositions that can be used intransitively, i.e., without an (explicit) object. For example, in English, the preposition "out" can be used either transitively or intransitively; compare "She walked out the door" with "She walked out". (Traditionally, these words are not called prepositions when they are used without objects, but rather adverbs or adverbial particles.) Likewise, sometimes adjectives or nouns can be described as transitive, such as "afraid" in "The child was afraid of the dark", or "destruction" in "the destruction of the city". Of course, in these cases there is a different sort of "object" involved, one which requires the preposition "of". [Spanish: transitivo [4]]