I notice that we distinctively define verbs which take accusative case as "transitive verbs" and those which don't as "intransitive". Now among intransitive, we have several possibilities:

  1. Dative
  2. No object
  3. Nominative
  4. Prepositional object
  5. Genitive object

As far as I know, no special name is given to verbs taking any of the case above. So, why is accusative case the only one seen to be worthy of a specific word for verbs taking that case?

  • 1
    Your list is not complete. A verb can also take a prepositional or a genitive object.
    – RHa
    Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 10:42

2 Answers 2


Transitive verbs and their accusative complements are special in that they participate in syntactic alternations such as the following.

1. Sie bedrohte den Kritiker.
2. Der Kritiker wurde bedroht.
3. der bedrohte Kritiker
4. das Bedrohen des Kritikers

The accusative complement of the transitive verb (1) also appears as: the subject of a passive sentence (2), a noun modified by a participial adjective (3), a genitive following a nominalized verb (4).

Other types of complements do not participate in such alternations. For instance, substituting drohen, which has a dative complement, for bedrohen:

1'. Sie drohte dem Kritiker.
2'. Dem Kritiker wurde gedroht.
3'. *der gedrohte Kritiker
4'. #das Drohen des Kritikers

In the passive, dative remains dative (2'); the participial adjective cannot be used attributively (3'); and the genitive following a nominalized verb is understood as referring to the subject (i.e. it is the critic doing the threatening, 4').

  • 3 and 3' in particular must feature the Partizip II to show the effect as it's passive. With the Partizip I or the Gerundivum both examples work as they are active.
    – Janka
    Commented Sep 17, 2023 at 14:58
  • Something I guess I never really realized was that transitive verbs must take an accusative object. Although at least how I see it, that only applies IF it is the V1 verb in a sentence? If you say in your second example: "Der Kritiker wurde bedroht.", the accusative object wouldn't be necessary because it's the past participle with a hilfsverb. It's only when they are in V1 position? Commented Apr 1 at 23:17

Well, accusative transitivity is the most common trait of all languages in the world (there are, as always, exceptions).

It's also the most basic way to form fundamental sentences in most European languages, and you could argue that everything else is a special case.

That is probably enough reason to find a generic term for that fact.

You should note, however, that there is more than one definition of transitivity, one - the most light of them - simply the fact that a verb needs an (any) object, while the strictest one is asking for an object in accusative that can form the subject of the same sentence in passive.

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