Definition of transitive in English:



  • 1Grammar
    (of a verb or a sense or use of a verb) able to take a direct object (expressed or implied), e.g. saw in he saw the donkey.

    The opposite of intransitive
    • ‘The first part of the utterance seems to be in English, except for the verb rub which has been given the Tok Pisin suffix - im, which marks transitive verbs.’
    • ‘However, some transitive verbs take a prepositional phrase instead of an indirect object.’
    • ‘A grammar of Japanese will tell you that a transitive verb is positioned after its object, not before, because you couldn't guess that if no one told you.’
    • ‘Furthermore, the verbs are usually transitive, though occasionally they are used intransitively with a preposition like for, of, or about introducing the object.’
    • ‘But it is the rare transitive use of the verb, with the action sent on to an object, that catches the attention of philologists.’
  • 2Mathematics Logic
    (of a relation) such that, if it applies between successive members of a sequence, it must also apply between any two members taken in order. For instance, if A is larger than B, and B is larger than C, then A is larger than C.

    • ‘The reason for this consequence is that identity is a transitive relation: that is to say, if a is identical with b and b is identical with c, then, of necessity, a is identical with c.’
    • ‘The transitive property of equality says that if a = b and b = c, then a = c.’
    • ‘I glanced at Nick, who nodded, and the teacher went back to droning on and on about the transitive property in Geometry: easily the most boring class of the day.’
    • ‘When most individuals in the group differ in size, stable dominance relationships generally yield transitive hierarchies consistent with size.’
    • ‘He also considered permutation groups of small degree, groups having a small number of conjugacy classes, multiply transitive groups, and characteristic subgroups of finite groups.’


Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘transitory’): from late Latin transitivus, from transit- ‘gone across’ (see transit).