Direct Objects

Generally, an object is a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase that usually comes after the verb. In this article we will talk about the direct objects.

intermediate
"Direct Objects" in the English Grammar

What Are Direct Objects?

'Nouns,' 'noun phrases,' and 'pronouns' can act as the direct object of the verb which means the action of the verb is performed upon them. When we say 'direct' it means the object is directly receiving the action of the verb. Direct objects are used after 'transitive verbs.'

Direct Objects and Transitive Verbs

'Transitive verbs' are those that need an 'object' to have a complete meaning. Some transitive verbs can have two objects. For example:

They ate dinner beside the sea coast.

Please give us a clear answer.

Nouns as Objects

If a verb is transitive and requires a noun as its object, any type of noun - whether it is proper or common, singular or plural, and countable or uncountable can be used as the object of the sentence. Check out the examples.

My mother saw Alex in the central park.

Pronouns as Objects

As you know, 'pronouns' are used to avoid repeating the same nouns. Here are the English object pronouns:

Subject pronouns Object pronouns
First Person Singular I Me
Second Person Singular You You
Third Person Singular (M) He Him
Third Person Singular (F) She Her
Third Person Singular (N) It It
First Person Plural We Us
Second Person Plural You You
Third Person Plural They Them

using a direct object in a sentence

Noun Phrases as Objects

In grammar, a 'noun phrase' is a group of words that includes a noun and any words that modify it, such as adjectives or determiners. Noun phrases can be used as the direct object of a transitive verb when they receive the action of the verb. Check out the examples:

The little girl drank the apple juice by herself.

She decorated her grandmother's house.

Gerunds as Objects

Gerunds can be used as both the subject and the object of a sentence, and therefore can be used as the direct object of a transitive verb. When a sentence is in the passive voice, the direct object of the transitive verb becomes the subject of the passive sentence, and using a gerund as the direct object will not cause any issues.

I like cooking with my grandmother.

How to Find Direct Objects

A direct object is a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase that receives the action of the verb. You can identify the direct object by asking the question who, whom, or what is being acted upon. For example:

I gave him a card. ("What was given?" "A card.")

We started a new project. ("What was started?" "A new project.")

Active and Passive Voice

'Direct objects' can be used as the 'object' of the transitive verb in the active voice and as the 'subject' of the transitive verb in the passive voice.

They studied medicine at university. → Medicine was studied by them at university.

Tip!

Remember, if the direct object of a transitive verb is a pronoun, you have to change it to a subject pronoun before you can use it as the subject of a passive sentence.

I heard him. → He was heard by me.

Objects with Phrasal Verbs

A phrasal verb is a combination of a main verb and a particle, which can be a preposition or an adverb. Direct objects can be used in various positions with phrasal verbs:

  1. You can use a noun phrase or a noun as an object between the two parts of the phrasal verb or after the phrasal verb.
  2. You can use an object pronoun only between the two parts of the phrasal verb and you can never use them after phrasal verbs.

Add them up, please. → (Not 'Add up them, please.')

Add the numbers up, please. → (Also 'Add up the numbers, please.')

Inseparable Phrasal Verbs

Not all phrasal verbs can be separated; meaning that some phrasal verbs cannot have their particle separated from the main verb by an object. Consequently, object pronouns cannot be used with these phrasal verbs. For example:

I came across an old photo album while cleaning out the attic.

We can't say 'I came it across while cleaning out the attic' or 'I came across it while cleaning out the attic'.

The dog ran and got in the car.

Not 'The dog ran and got in it'.

Review

The direct object directly receives the action of the verb. Here are the possible direct objects:

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