Transitivity is an important aspect of Nepali. While transitivity might not be a prominent part of English (by that meaning noticeable in daily contexts), it definitely ‘is’ for Nepali. Transitivity helps to explain why some things take objects, some don’t, and why the subject sometimes takes the ’le’ particle.

So, what is transitivity? 

Transitivity is the ability of the verb to take a direct object. Such verbs are called ‘transitive verbs’ (सकर्मक क्रिया /sakarmak kriya/). On the other hand, verbs which do not take a direct object are called ‘Intransitive verbs’ (अकर्मक क्रिया /akarmak kriya/). Now, what is a direct object?

A direct object is an object that is the recipient of an action done by the subject. A subject is the one who is doing an action (like playing). In simplest terms, a direct object receives the action done by the subject directly. A few examples might set this clear:

He kicked the ball.  

I ate the food.

I gave him a pen.

In the above sentences, the direct objects are in bold. What is the nature of these words? Each one is directly receiving the action from the subject. It is directly being affected by the action. 

There is something interesting about the third sentence: what is ’him’? Is it a direct object too?

Unfortunately, no. It is an indirect object. But why? It is because it is not directly receiving the action. You can give a ‘pen’, but not ‘him’. That means, even though it is somewhat being affected by the action done by the subject, it doesn’t receive it directly.

Is there an easy way to identify the direct object? Yes! Direct objects yield an answer to ‘What’ (or who if human). The following question pattern will be satisfied if it is a direct object:

<subject> <action> What?

For example, in the third example:

<I> <gave> what?

The answer ‘a pen’ will satisfy the question ‘what’ and hence is the direct object. The sentence becomes complete that way. However, ‘Him’ doesn’t satisfy the condition (I gave him?). The sentence feels ‘incomplete’ otherwise ’empty’.

Sometimes, a transitive verb requires a complement to make complete sense. For example:

I made my son

I made my son what? There is an information missing from the sentence. To complete it, we require to insert a complement:

I made my son a doctor

Now, let’s move on to other fronts regarding it.



If you have started to learn Nepali, then you probably know about the postposition ’le’. When you deal with ’le’, a particular annoyance is, sometimes it disappears entirely from the text and sometimes it just seems to repeat over and over again. In the absolute terms, ‘le’ is used in transitive sentences (however, not all transitive verb forms take ‘le’).

The moods that do not take ’le’ to the subject are:

  • Continuative Forms
  • Habitual Forms
  • Simple Present and Future

That means, the above moods do not take ‘le’ to the subject. So:

C: I am eating apples. (म स्याउ खाँदैछु /ma syau khadaichu/)

H: I used to apples. (म स्याउ खान्थे /ma syau khanthe/)

S(Pr): I eat apples. (म स्याउ खान्छु /ma syau khanchu/)

Of course, Instransitves do not take le. So, we can reduce this into the HICS rule. Now it is easy to memorize, right?

Do not take the marker ‘le’ off everything! Even though in the sentences above, none of the subjects took the postposition ‘le’, the rest of the moods (like simple past) take it!

Also, do realize that the le we talk about here is the subject marker le and not the instrumental marker le! It is a particular annoyance yes, but these two are independent of each other unlike in Hindi where the instrumental marker and the subject maker is different. For example:

ऊ छुरीले काट्छ (u churi le katcha)

The word churi is not a subject, hence it takes le. As you know, le is also an instrument maker. you can read more about this on the lesson Case Marker: Le.


Sentence: I eat apples.


Simple Past: I ate apples.

म स्याउ खाएँ (ma syau khae)         [INCORRECT]


मैले स्याउ खाएँ (maile syau khae)   [CORRECT]


Present Perfect: I have eaten apples.

मैले स्याउ खाएको छु (maile syau khaeko chu) [CORRECT]


म स्याउ खाएको छु (ma syau khaeko chu) [INCORRECT]


Present Continuous: I am eating apples.

म स्याउ खाँदैछु (ma syau khadai chu) [CORRECT]


मैले स्याउ खाँदैछु (maile syau khadai chu) [INCORRECT]



Here is a list showing common transitive verbs. Remember that transitive verbs in English are also transitive in Nepali and vice versa:

खानु (khanu) = To eat

दिनु (dinu) = To give

बनाउनु (banaaunu) = To make

पकाउनु (pakaaunu) = To cook

गर्नु (garnu) = To do

रोक्नु (roknu) = To stop

लेख्नु (lekhnu) = To write

देख्नु (dekhnu) = To See

सुन्नु (sunnu) = To hear

बोल्नु (bolnu) = To speak/ talk

खोल्नु (kholnu) = To open

चलाउनु (chalaunu) = To use

झार्नु (jhaarnu) = To drop (something)

काट्नु (katnu) = To cut

लगाउनु (lagaaunu) = To wear

सिक्नु (siknu) = To learn

पढ्नु (padhnu) = To study/ read

खेल्नु (khelnu) = To play

Of course I can list all the verbs there are but the list would be very large. You can consult any dictionary to see whether a verb is transitive or not.



Here is a list showing common intransitive verbs:

जानु (janu) = To go

रुनु (runu) = To cry

घट्नु (ghatnu) = To decrease

बढ्नु (badhnu) = To increase/ grow

बस्नु (basnu) = To sit

आउनु (aaunu) = To come

फर्किनु (pharkinu) = To return

उठ्नु (uthnu) = To wake up/ stand

उभिनु (ubhinu) = To stand

सुत्नु (sutnu) = To sleep



In English, a verb can both be transitive or intransitive, depending on the situation. That means, the same verb is used to express both transitive and intransitive phrases. One example I can think of currently is: To drop

For example,

I dropped my phone. (TRANSITIVE)

The phone dropped.  (INTRANSITIVE)

However, things are not that simple in Nepali. Even if the verb gets translated into the same thing in English (like above), we have different verbs for each transitivity. That means, there is a one-one correspondence between certain verbs and transitivity. However, things are not as complex as they appear to sound. Only the form changes slightly…for example, if the transitive verbs started with the letter p, its intransitive counterpart will also start with a p. Also, some verbs are both transitive and intransitive depending on the situation, like bolnu.

Sometimes due to translation differences, different words might be used but that is all normal!

Here are some common transitive verbs (left) with their intransitive counterparts (right). 

झार्नु (jhaarnu/ To drop something) – झर्नु (jharnu / To be dropped)

जलाउनु (jalaaunu / To burn something) – जल्नु (jalnu / To be burnt) 

निकाल्नु (nikaalnu / To take out) – निक्लिनु (niklinu / To exit)

डुबाउनु (dubaaunu /To drown something) – डुब्नु (dubnu / To drown)

टाँस्नु (taasnu / To stick something) – टाँसिनु (taasinu / To be stuck)

मेट्नु (metnu / To erase something) – मेटिनु (metinu / To be erased)

छिराउनु (chiraaunu/ To insert something) – छिर्नु (chirnu/ To enter) 


And some examples of their use:

1) झार्नु (jhaarnu)

मैले मोबाईल झारेँ (maile mobaail jhaare)

= I dropped the phone.

झर्नु (jharnu)

मोबाईल झर्यो (mobaail jharyo)

= The phone fell/ dropped.


2) मेट्नु (metnu)

मैले बोर्डलाई मेटेँ (maile bord lai mete)

= I erased the board.

मेटिनु (metinu)

बोर्डको कुरा मेटियो (bord ko kura metiyo)

= Things on the board got erased.



I am afraid there is no definite pattern between them given that such pairs are barely even common in the first place. However, if the intransitive verb’s root ends with a consonant sound, then it is likely it will either get converted into an ’aa’ sound (like father) or into an आउ (aau) sound.



The favourite technique of mine is to used the method I mentioned way earlier. However, if we are given an unknown Nepali verb without any translation, how can we guess?

Here are some tips for sorting that out:

1) If the verb ends with a ’aaunu’  (आउनु) sound (like pakaaunu), it is likely to be transitive 

2) If a verb ends with a ’inu’ (इनु) sound (like metinu), it is likely to be intransitive

3) Generally, verbs that contain an आ (aa) sound around the end (like nikaalnu) are likely to be transitive 

However, there can be exceptions and it is best to consult a dictionary. For example, words that end with ’aaunu’ and describe emotions are usually intransitive [risaaunuramaaunu etc.]. Also, nuhaaunu (which means to bathe) is intransitive. The word’ birsinu’ is transitive, even though it ends with inu.

The reason why verbs that end with aaunu are usually transitive is because aaunu is the base for making causative verbs and all causative verbs are transitive. More on this topic later.



An interesting thing of le is its employment in Vernacular Speech. In everyday conversations, it is not uncommon to use le in certain intransitive verbs like ‘नुहाउनु’ or ‘थुक्नु’ at all, given the verb is conjugated into the past. For example, the following sentences are perfectly valid (and not weird sounding) in conversations:

रामले हिजो नुहायो (ram le hijo nuhayo)

= Ram bathed yesterday.


However, this doesn’t mean it is used with other intransitives like:

रामले हिजो सुत्यो (ram le hijo sutyo) [SOUNDS SO WEIRD!]


Sometimes le is also used with present simple tense:

रामले भात खान्छ (ram le bhat khancha)

= Ram eats rice.


However, these should be strictly limited to everyday speech only! I recommend not to use le even in such circumstances because…bad habits can always go awry. 😉


That’s it about transitivity in Nepali! If there are any questions, do ask right away!




1. हिँड्नु (hidnu) [To walk]

2. सक्नु (saknu) [To finish]

3. किन्नु (kinnu) [To buy]


1. No

2. Yes

3. Yes