1. Transitive verbs
Verbs can be classified depending on whether or not they imply that the action directly influences an object or person (the direct object). If they do, they are called transitive verbs (verbos transitivos in Spanish).
So, transitive verbs need to be used with a direct object to complete it though. A direct object is essentially the person or thing the subject performs an action upon. We can identify the Direct Object of a sentence by asking the verb what? or whom?
Mi esposa me regaló un reloj por mi cumpleaños (My wife gave me a watch for my birthday).
¿Tienes alguna pregunta? (Do you have a question?).
Mis padres están intentando vender su casa (My parents are trying to sell their house).
Ayer, Carlos me dijo lo que había pasado (Yesterday, Carlos told me what had happened).
No recuerdo su nombre (I don’t remember her name).
2. Intransitive verbs
If verbs do not imply a direct influence on a person or object, i.e. they don´t take a direct object, they are called intransitive verbs (verbos intransitivos in Spanish). Learn more about intransitive verbs.
Mi abuelo murió muy joven (My grandfather died when very young).
El bebé estuvo llorando toda la noche (The baby was crying the whole night).
Mi perro se tumbó a la sombra debajo de un árbol (My dog lies in the shade under the tree).
3. Most of the Spanish verbs are transitive. The good news is that, very often, Spanish verbs and their English counterparts match each other intransitivity, although there are a few exceptions. For example, dormir (to sleep) can be transitive in Spanish but not in English, while nadar (to swim) is transitive in English but not in Spanish. So it is good you check the dictionary.
4. Many verbs can be both transitive and intransitive. An action verb with a direct object is transitive while an action verb with no direct object is intransitive.
¿Puedes abrirme la puerta, por favor? (Could you open the door for me, please?). TRANSITIVE.
Las tiendas abren a las 9 de la mañana (Shops open at 9 a.m.). INTRANSITIVE.
¿Te has lavado las manos? (Have you washed your hands?). TRANSITIVE.
Lola se lavó, se vistió y se marchó (Lola washed, dressed, and went out). INTRANSITIVE.
Por favor, escribe tu dirección aquí (Please, write your address here). TRANSITIVE.
Lauren puede leer y escribir en español muy bien (Lauren can read and write in Spanish quite well). INTRANSITIVE.