Spanish Verb Types
There are several different verb types in Spanish, including transitive verbs, intransitive verbs, pronominal verbs, reflexive verbs, and reciprocal verbs. It's helpful to know what they are and how they're different. Let's get started!
Transitive verbs are verbs that need a direct object. A direct object is essentially the person or thing the subject performs an action upon.
You can yourself ask the questions What? or Who? to determine what the direct object of a verb is.
Transitivity Profile: tener
- I have what? - An apple.
So, una manzana (an apple) is the direct object of the transitive verb tener.
Transitivity Profile: comer
- He ate what? - A cookie.
So, una galleta (a cookie) is the direct object of the transitive verb comer.
Transitivity Profile: sorprender
- Who did we surprise? - My boyfriend.
So, mi novio (my boyfriend) is the direct object of the transitive verb sorprender.
Intransitive verbs are verbs that do not need a direct object. Intransitive verbs often form one-word sentences in Spanish.
Transitivity Profile: correr
- You can't answer ask either What? or Who? with this sentence. Cada día only tells you how often. The sentence could also just have been one word: Corre. (He/She runs.)
Transitivity Profile: dormir
- You can't answer ask either What? or Who? with this sentence. En su cama only tells you where. The sentence could also just have been one word: Duerme. (He/She sleeps.)
Transitivity Profile: gustar
- You can't answer ask either What? or Who? with this sentence in Spanish. The subject is los plátanos (bananas), which please me (an indirect object). Confused? Check out our article on verbs like gustar.
Pronominal Verbs are often incorrectly called reflexive verbs, when in reality reflexive verbs are just one type of pronominal verb. Reciprocal verbs are other type of pronominal verb you'll run across.
Pronominal verbs must be conjugated along with a reflexive pronoun.
With reflexive verbs, the subject is acting upon itself.
With reciprocal verbs, two subjects perform the same action on each other.