5) Objects

Objects

Another area we should have a quick look at is objects. This will make more sense later on, once we have looked at verbs. Nevertheless, it is worth having a think about right now, as it will come up again before we get to verbs.

An object is the element of the sentence which is having something done to it by the subject, and is most often seen within the predicate of the sentence. Take the sentence:

The dog bit the man.

The subject is ‘The dog,’ the verb is ‘bit’ and the object is ‘the man.’ It is ‘the man’ which is having something done to it (being ‘bit’ by the subject, ‘the dog’) and, therefore, it is the object. There are two types of objects:

1) Direct objects

Direct objects are objects which the verb is working directly on. For example, in:

The dog bit the man.

the verb ‘bit’ is working directly on the object ‘the man.’ One way of checking it is the direct object is finding the subject, then finding the verb and asking the questions ‘what?’ or ‘whom?’ next to both of them. So the formula for finding the direct object is: 

subject + verb + what/whom?

For example:

‘The dog bit the man’

Subject: ‘The dog’

Verb = ‘bit’

Question = ‘The dog bit whom?’

Answer = ‘the man’

or

‘The man loves dogs’

Subject: ‘The man’

Verb = ‘loves’

Question = ‘The man loves what?’

Answer = ‘dogs’

To get a better understanding of why this is called the ‘direct’ object we should look at indirect objects, then compare.

2) Indirect objects

The indirect object answers the question ‘to/for what’ or ‘to/for whom’ the verb is working. It is generally found after the verb, but before the direct object. This is because the indirect object receives something from the direct object. Without a direct object, an indirect object cannot exist. Let’s look at some examples comparing sentences without an indirect object with those with:

‘John sent the letter.’ (subject: ‘John’, verb: ‘sent’, direct object: ‘the letter.’)

‘John sent Mary the letter.’ (subject: ‘John’, verb: ‘sent’, indirect object: ‘Mary’, direct object: ‘the letter.’)

In the first sentence, we are not told to whom the direct object ‘the letter’ is being sent, only that it is being sent. All we have is a direct object (‘the letter’) having something done to it via the verb (being ‘sent’) by the subject (‘John’). However, in the second sentence we are told that ‘Mary’ is the recipient of the letter, and therefore ‘Mary’ is ‘to whom’ our direct object (‘the letter’) is being sent, making ‘Mary’ the indirect object. To clarify, ‘Mary’ is the indirect object because she is receiving the direct object ‘the letter.’ So the verb ‘sent’ is working directly on ‘the letter’ and indirectly on ‘Mary.’

The best way to check for the indirect object is to find the subject, verb, and direct object first, then put ‘to/for what’ or ‘to/for whom’ next to it, to find out who received the direct object. I like this method because it makes us focus on the link between the direct and indirect object. Therefore, the following question will find the direct object:

subject + verb + direct object + ‘to/for what?’ or ‘to/for whom?’

For example:

‘John sent Mary the letter.’

Subject = John

Verb =’sent’

Question to find direct object = ‘sent what?’

Answer = ‘the letter’

Direct object = ‘the letter.’

Question to find indirect object (subject + verb + direct object + to whom?) = ‘John sent the letter to whom?’

Answer = ‘Mary’

Indirect object = ‘Mary’

or

‘John gave the floor a kick.’

Subject: ‘John’

Verb = ‘gave’

Question to find direct object = ‘gave what?’

Answer = ‘a kick’

Direct object = ‘a kick’

Question to find indirect object (subject + verb + direct object + to what) = John gave a kick to what?

Answer = ‘the floor’

Indirect object = ‘the floor’

This latter example may be harder to make sense of because the idea of giving a kick is a strange one; ‘giving’ tends to make us think of receiving a gift, and ‘a kick’ is not really the sort of gift most of us would appreciate. Nevertheless, John is not giving ‘the floor’ he is giving ‘a kick’, so ‘a kick’ is the direct object, as it is being worked on directly by the verb ‘gave’. One more example:

‘Jane threw Ben the ball to start the game.’

Subject: ‘Jane’

Verb = ‘threw’

Question to find direct object = ‘threw what?’

Answer = ‘the ball’

Direct object = ‘the ball’

Question to find indirect object (subject + verb + direct object + to whom?) = ‘Jane threw the ball to whom?’

Answer = ‘Ben’

Indirect object = ‘Ben’

3) Questions

This is another concept that will be returned to regularly. It will make a lot more sense once we have explored verbs, so don’t worry too much right now. Formulate your answers to the follow questions now though, to see what you do understand it to be.

1) What is an object?

2) What is a direct object?

3) What is an indirect object?

We are done with objects for now; let’s look at phrases and clauses, next.

NEXT: 6) Phrases and clauses

Posted in English Grammar

Recent Posts