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Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2021 2:40:33 AM

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Is distinguish transitive or intransitive or both?

Can the child distinguish between right and wrong? (transitive/intransitive?)
His large moustache distinguished him from the rest of the group. (transitive/intransitive?)
tautophile
Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2021 2:57:19 AM
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"Distinguish" is usually transitive, but can be intransitive. See the definition in the Merriam-Webster website (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distinguish) for more information.
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2021 3:02:31 AM

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tautophile wrote:
"Distinguish" is usually transitive, but can be intransitive. See the definition in the Merriam-Webster website (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/distinguish) for more information.


I have had a look at it. It says:

distinguish between right and wrong - intransitive

Why? How come is it intransitive?

Plus, "His large moustache distinguished him from the rest of the group." transitive?
thar
Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2021 4:05:11 AM

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Remember transitive or instransitive is just a label describing how it is used. Not an inherent property the verb has to follow.
To distinguish something is used in those ways.
1 To be able tell things apart,
and
2 to make something stand out from the rest.

You distinguish between things. (Like you walk between two buildings. That is not transitive. It has a prepositional phrase.)
Something distinguishes one thing from all the rest of its type. (That has a direct object, no preposition before the object noun.)

If that is labelled as intransitive or intransitive, then they write that.
sureshot
Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2021 5:20:39 AM
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Joined: 9/16/2015
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Ivan Fadeev wrote:


I have had a look at it. It says:

distinguish between right and wrong - intransitive

Why? How come is it intransitive?

Plus, "His large moustache distinguished him from the rest of the group." transitive?

__________________

The verb "distinguish" can function either as a transitive verb or as an intransitive verb.

When you use "distinguish between", the verb " distinguish" invariably functions intransitively. A useful check is to try making a passive voice sentence. Sentences using "distinguish between" can't be written in passive voice pattern. "Right and wrong" is not the object of the verb "distinguish". It is the object of the preposition "between". "Between" has been used to introduce a noun phrase.

The second sentence has used the verb "distinguished" transitively. The object of the verb "distinguished" is "him". The passive voice sentence is "He is distinguished from the rest of the group by his large moustache".
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2021 7:33:32 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 2/21/2015
Posts: 1,750
Neurons: 19,074
I gather that you mean that:

I can distinguish between a man and a woman. - intransitive
A man and a woman can be distinguished between by me. - WRONG?

I can distinguish a man from a woman. - transitive
A man can be distinguished from a woman by me. - CORRECT?


sureshot
Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2021 8:21:05 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/16/2015
Posts: 3,146
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Ivan Fadeev wrote:
I gather that you mean that:

I can distinguish between a man and a woman. - intransitive
A man and a woman can be distinguished between by me. - WRONG?

I can distinguish a man from a woman. - transitive
A man can be distinguished from a woman by me. - CORRECT?


__________

The attempted passive voice construction using "between" is incorrect.

The passive voice sentence using "from" is correct. "Man" is the object of "can distinguish".
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