It’s 9am on Monday morning. You’re at the office, and your boss asks you, “What did you do this weekend?” You answer, “My weekend was great! I enjoyed with my friends at the park.” And then your boss gives you the look of a confused native English speaker: the lowered eyebrows, the pause while he tries to figure out your sentence. You’ve just said something wrong, but you don’t know what, and your boss is too nice to correct you. (Fortunately, I am not too nice to correct you!) If you don’t understand what’s wrong here, you need to keep reading. This article will discuss some basic but important grammar terms and rules, give examples of correct and incorrect usage, and then give a list of important verbs to pay attention to.



Grammar Rules And Examples


The grammar problem that confused your boss in the situation above was a “Lonely Verb.” This is my name for a grammatical mistake where a Verb (in this case “enjoy”) is missing a necessary Object. Your listener might still understand your meaning if you use a Lonely Verb, but this mistake will identify you as a non-native speaker and make you sound less natural. Let’s briefly review some basic English grammar to fully understand what a Lonely Verb is and how to fix it.


English sentences have the basic structure of “Subject – Verb – Object”: the Subject is the person or thing that performs the action, the Verb is the action, and the Object receives the action. Another way of saying this is that the Subject does the action to the Object. (Not every sentence requires an Object, and there are actually two kinds of Objects – Direct and Indirect Objects – but to keep things simple, this article only talks about Direct Objects.)


Example Sentence:


  • “John threw the ball.”
  • “John” is the Subject, “threw” is the Verb, and “the ball” is the Object.


Some Verbs are not normally used with Objects. These are called “Intransitive Verbs.” They only describe the Subject’s actions; nothing receives this action. Examples of Intransitive Verbs include: sleep, exist, go, occur, happen, and come.


Example Sentences:


  • “Dinosaurs existed 60 million years ago.” (correct - no Object)
  • “Scientists are trying to exist dinosaurs by manipulating ancient DNA.” (incorrect – Object)


Note that “60 million years ago” isn’t an Object. It says when the action happened but doesn’t receive the action.


Verbs that can take Objects are called “Transitive Verbs”; the Object after them receives the action. Here, I distinguish between two types of Transitive Verbs and introduce terminology that you won’t see in textbooks. Some Transitive Verbs can be used with or without Objects; I’m going to call these “Optional Transitive Verbs.” Examples of Optional Transitive Verbs include: sing, eat, lose, win, study, and write.


Correct Example Sentences:


  • “I write.” (no Object)
  • “I write fiction.” (Object)
  • “Maria sings every day.” (no Object)
  • “Maria sings opera songs.” (Object)


Notice that “every day” is not an Object: it doesn’t receive the action of singing, it only describes the frequency of the action.


Now we have come to the most important idea of this article: some Verbs require objects, and if they aren’t followed by one they sound very strange to native English speakers. I am going to call these “Obligate Transitive Verbs”: it is obligatory (required) for them to have an Object, and it is a grammatical mistake if they don’t. Examples of Obligate Transitive Verbs include: love, enjoy, like, want, invite, and remind.


Example Sentences:


  • “I love riding my bike in the park on Sundays.” (correct – Object)
  • “Do you love riding your bike?”
  • “Yes, I love.” (incorrect – no Object – Lonely Verb)
  • “I enjoy reading.” (correct – Object)
  • “I enjoyed with my friends at the park.” (incorrect – no Object – Lonely Verb)


In the incorrect examples above, we see Lonely Verbs: Verbs that feel sad and lonely because they are missing their Objects. (Of course, Verbs can’t actually feel anything, but the people listening to you can. And they will feel confused if your Verb is lonely!)


In the example, “I enjoyed with my friends at the park,” it is important to notice that “with my friends at the park” is not an Object: it doesn’t receive the action of enjoyment, and it doesn’t tell the listener what  you were enjoying. “With my friends at the park” is called a Prepositional Phrase. This is a group of words with a Preposition (words like with, in, at, on, above, and under) at the beginning that describes where or when an action happened; it cannot be the Object of Obligate Transitive Verbs. A few more examples with Prepositional Phrases.


Example Sentences:


  • “I want at the party.” (incorrect – no Object)
  • “I want food at the party.” (correct – Object)
  • “I like under the blankets.” (incorrect – no Object)
  • “I like reading under the blankets.” (correct – Object)




Common Mistakes And How To Fix Them


Now that we know what the problem is, we can start to fix it. Fortunately, these mistakes are easy to avoid. You will have to memorize a few Obligate Transitive Verbs (see the list below) and then remember to always pair them with an Object. Let’s start by fixing the mistake that confused your boss at the beginning of this article:


  • “I enjoyed with my friends at the park.” (incorrect)


We know what’s wrong here: “enjoy” is a Lonely Verb. To fix this, ask yourself: “What did I enjoy? What is the Object?” Let’s pretend that it was a game of basketball.


  • “I enjoyed a game of basketball with my friends at the park.” (correct - Object)


Problem solved! Your boss isn’t confused now, and you’re going to get a big promotion at work. A few more examples:


  • Person A: “Would you like this apple?”
  • Person B: “Yes, I’d like.” (incorrect)


“Like” is our Lonely Verb. We can fix this in two ways:


  1. “Yes, I’d like that apple.” (correct)
  2. “Yes, I’d like it.” (correct) ß the pronoun “it” refers to the apple.

(You can also answer, “Yes, I would.” or just “Yes.”)


This last example with the Obligate Transitive Verb “remind” is a little confusing and will need some explaining. Example:


  • “Whenever I teach, I always remind to do the homework.” (incorrect)


First, you have to understand that “remind” and many other Obligate Transitive Verbs sometimes have an Infinitive or Infinitive Phrase afterwards. An Infinitive is a verb with “to” in front (examples: to eat, to run), and an Infinitive Phrase is a group of words with an Infinitive at the beginning (examples: to eat the cake, to run a marathon).


In this case, “to do the homework” is an Infinitive Phrase; it isn’t the Object because it doesn’t receive the action of “reminding.” It is the action that you reminded someone to do. We need to add an Object to fix our Lonely Verb:


  • “Whenever I teach, I always remind my students to do the homework.” (correct - Object)


(See “Understanding and Using English Grammar, 4th ed.” by Betty S. Azar and Stacey A. Hagen, p.325, for a good list of Verbs followed by an Infinitive Phrase.)



Obligate Transitive Verb List

Here is a list of 20 common Obligate Transitive Verbs. To sound more natural in English, memorize these and always remember to use them with an Object. (Note that this is not a complete list.)























 * “love” may occasionally be used without an Object in a spiritual context. For instance, you might hear a spiritual guru tell a student, “You must love with your whole heart,” a sentence which has no Object. However, there is an implied Object: the guru is telling the student to love everything and everyone with their whole heart.


** “use” can be used without an Object in one circumstance when talking about illegal drug use. Correct Example Sentence: “Is John a drug addict?” “Yeah, he uses.”





Creating Lonely Verbs is not the worst mistake you can make in English, and people will often still understand you. However, they are very obvious mistakes to native English speakers (even the ones that aren’t teachers!), and avoiding them will make you sound more fluent and natural. I have heard even advanced students make this mistake, and people at all levels can benefit from learning this grammar. So start memorizing the list above, and never let your Verbs be lonely again!


Hero image by Ben Duchac on Unsplash