The notes for the DuoLingo French course claim that an intransitive verb, in French, can take an indirect object:

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In "Je parle à Jacques", is "parler" an intransitive verb, and "à Jacques" indirect object (introduced by à) ?

  • These sound like they're confusing the English definitions of transitive and intransitive, with the French ones. Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 21:21
  • @PeterShor, can you eleborate, perhaps in an answer? What are the differences between the English definitions of those two words, vs the French definitions?
    – silph
    Commented Aug 9, 2021 at 21:34
  • 1
    In English, one definition of an intransitive verb is one that cannot take a direct object. See Wiktionary. In French, a verb can be transitive but only take indirect objects. See Wiktionnaire. So when Duolingo says that intransitive verbs can have indirect objects (jlliagre points out that this is a contradiction) they seem to be confusing the French and English definitions of transitive verbs. Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 0:31
  • I think the different definitions come out of the way the languages work, and that these definitions make sense for their respective languages. So it's not clear to me that it makes sense to teach French to English speakers using the English definition of transitive verb. Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 0:47

1 Answer 1


Duolingo's last statement is self-contradictory. By definition, intransitive verbs can't have compléments d'objets.

The confusion might be due to the fact many verbs can be used either in a transitive or an intransitive way. Transitivity is more about defining their usage than some intrinsic quality of a verb. Only a subset of verbs are exclusively of one kind or another, e.g. dormir is exclusively intransitive.

On the other hand, parler can be used either as an intransitive, transitive direct or transitive indirect verb.

See also this reply.


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