The Farlex Grammar Book > English Grammar > Syntax > Subjects and Predicates > The Predicate > Complements > Objects
What is an object?
Objects of verbs
The objects of verbs relay information about who or what is receiving the action of the verb. The object of a verb can either be a direct object, meaning it directly receives the action of the verb, or it can be an indirect object, meaning it receives the direct object of the verb.
Note that only transitive verbs take objects.
Direct objects are directly affected by the verbs they complete—that is, the verb’s action is happening directly to them. For example:
- “The dog chased its tail.” (The object its tail is receiving the action of the verb chase.)
- “Mary reads a new book every week.” (The object a new book is receiving the action of the verb read.)
- “I asked Jonathan on a date.” (The object Jonathan is receiving the action of the verb asked.)
We can identify the direct object by asking the question Whom? or What? about the verb. The part of the sentence that answers that question is the direct object.
“The dog chased its tail.”
“Mary reads a new book every week.”
“I asked Jonathan on a date.”
Question: The dog chased what?
Question: Mary reads what?
Question: I asked whom?
Answer: its tail
Answer: a new book
An indirect object is the person or thing who receives the direct object of the verb. He, she, or it is still affected by the action of the verb, but now this happens indirectly. Indirect objects appear directly between the verb and its direct object.
- “Please pass me the salt.” (The pronoun me is receiving the direct object the salt, which receives the action of the verb pass.)
- “I sent the company an application for the job.” (The noun phrase the company is receiving the direct object an application, which receives the action of the verb sent.)
Only verbs that express an action being relayed to or done for another person or thing can take indirect objects. These are called ditransitive verbs. (Those that can only take direct objects are called monotransitive verbs.)
Indirect objects as prepositional phrases
The indirect object comes immediately before the direct object in a sentence, as we saw above. However, we can also communicate the same information by placing the indirect object after the direct object in a prepositional phrase using to or for. We can do this with any indirect object, but it is often preferable when the indirect object is particularly long. For instance:
“I sent my brother a letter.”
“I sent a letter to my brother.”
“My father baked our class a batch of cupcakes.”
“My father baked a batch of cupcakes for our class.”
“She teaches many different students mathematics.”
She teaches mathematics to many different students.”
Objects of prepositions
Prepositions also take objects, which work together to create prepositional phrases. Generally, a preposition is directly followed by its object. For example:
- “I am looking for work.” (The noun work is the object of the preposition for, which creates the prepositional phrase for work.)
- “Your backpack is under the table.” (The noun phrase the table is the object of the preposition under, which creates the prepositional phrase under the table.)
- “I got a ticket for speeding.” (The gerund speeding is the object of the preposition for, which creates the prepositional phrase for speeding.)
- “She can study with whomever she likes.” (The noun clause whomever she likes is the object of the preposition with, which creates the prepositional phrase with whomever she likes.)
The Objective Case
We largely do not inflect (change the form of) words to reflect whether they are acting as subjects or objects in a sentence. Personal pronouns, however, still have a unique form in the objective case when they act as objects of verbs or prepositions.
In addition, the pronouns who and whoever change in the objective case, becoming whom and whomever; however, this distinction is becoming less common, with who and whoever being used in most instances in modern English.
The table below gives a quick breakdown of these different cases and how they are used in a sentence. Notice that the pronouns you and it are the same for both cases.
“I read a great book recently.”
“Jeff told me about a great book.”
“We went out for ice cream.”
“Mom took us out for ice cream.”
“You said the project was finished!”
“I told you it would be finished next week!”
“He left for practice already.”
“I'm waiting for him to return from practice.”
“She is writing a play.”
“The play was written by her.”
“It might rain today.”
“I want it to stop snowing.”
“They won't like this.”
“I asked them a week ago.”
“Who told you about our plan?”
“Whom have you told about our plan?”
“Whoever broke this vase is in deep trouble!”
“Study with whomever you like.”
(To learn more about grammatical case, go to the section on Personal Pronouns - Case.)