WHAT IS AN OBJECT?

22-Aug-2019
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A. What is an Objects?

An object is one of the five major elements of clause structure. The other four are subject, verb, adjunct and complement.

Objects are typically noun phrases (a noun or pronoun and any dependent words before or after it). Objects normally follow the verb in a clause:

Everyone likes her. She knows everyone.

They didn’t take their mountain bikes with them.

A: Have you seen the car keys?

B: Yes I had them earlier.

There are direct objects and indirect objects. A direct object (in bold) is the thing or person that is affected by the action of the verb. An indirect object (underlined) is usually a person (or animal) who receives a direct object:

They gave her a present when she left.

Can you get me some butter?

B. Direct objects

Direct objects identify what or who receives the action of a transitive verb in a clause or sentence. When pronouns function as direct objects, they customarily take the form of the objective case (me, us, him, her, them, whom, and whomever).

That computer hasn’t got a mouse.

Nobody writes letters these days.

Does she play tennis?

C. Indirect objects

An indirect object is usually a person or an animal. The indirect object (underlined) receives or is affected by the direct object (in bold). An indirect object always needs a direct object with it and always comes before the direct object. 

Nouns and pronouns also function as indirect objects. These objects are the beneficiaries or recipients of the action in a sentence. Indirect objects answer the questions "to/for whom" and "to/for what."

She gave the dog its dinner.

Do I owe you some money?

We can often rephrase such sentences with a prepositional phrase using to or for + the recipient. In this case, the direct object usually comes first.

Compare

indirect + direct objectdirect object + prepositional phrase with to/for
He always gives the class too much homework.He always gives too much homework to the class.
I never buy her flowers. She’s allergic to them.I never buy flowers for her. She’s allergic to them.

Here are some verbs that often take an indirect object + direct object or a prepositional phrase with to:

bringlendoweshowtell
giveofferpromiseteachwrite

Here are some verbs that often take an indirect object + direct object or a prepositional phrase with for:

buyfindget
makeordersave

D. Verbs and objects

Some verbs (often called transitive verbs) need an object to complete their meaning. Some verbs (often called intransitive verbs) do not take an object. Some verbs need both a direct object and an indirect object. Some verbs can take a wh-clause or a that-clause as an object.

Some examples of verbs and objects:

verb + objectWe really enjoyed the evening. Thanks.
verb + no objectPaula smiled and left.
verb + two objectsThey gave us coffee.
verb + wh - clauseI can’t believe what he told me.
verb + that - clauseI know (that) you’re telling the truth.

Many phrasal verbs (underlined below) take an object:

We won’t give out your email address to other companies.

They’ve put the price of fuel up again.

All prepositional verbs (underlined below) take an object after the preposition:

I don’t listen to the radio much.

It depends on the weather.

No objects with linking verbs

We don’t use objects with linking verbs (appear, be, become, look, seem, etc.). We use adjective phrases, noun phrases, adverb phrases or prepositional phrases as subject complements (underlined below), to give more information about the subject:

This is Lucy. She’s my sister-in-law.

felt really tired.

was in the garden when you rang.

E. Prepositions and Verbs

Objects that pair with prepositions function differently from direct and indirect objects, which follow verbs. These nouns and verbs reference a preposition and modify the action of the larger sentence. For example:

Girls are playing basketball around a utility pole with a metal hoop bolted to it.

He sat in the basement of the building, among the boxes, reading a book on his break

In the first example, the prepositional objects are "pole" and "hoop." in the second example, the prepositional objects are "basement," "building," "boxes," and "break."

Like direct objects, prepositional objects receive the action of the subject in the sentences yet need a preposition for the sentence to make sense. Spotting prepositions is important because if you use the wrong one, it can confuse readers. Consider how odd the second sentence would sound if it began, "He sat on the basement..." 

Transitive verbs also require an object for them to make sense. There are three kinds of transitive verbs. Mono transitive verbs have a direct object, whereas ditransitive verbs have a direct object and an indirect object. Complex-transitive verbs have a direct object and an object attribute. For example:

  • Mono transitive: Bob bought a car. (The direct object is "car.")
  • Ditransitive: Bob gave me the keys to his new car. (The indirect object is "me"; the direct object is "keys.")
  • Complex-transitive: I heard him shouting. (The direct object is "him"; the object attribute is "shouting.")

Intransitive verbs, on the other hand, do not need an object in order to complete their meaning.

cr: English Grammar Today, ThoughtCo

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