In order to distract myself from the full-blown case of winter that is lurking outside my window, I thought we could delve a little deeper into the world of objects. I’ve discussed direct and indirect objects in some of my previous posts, like the one on writing kick ass sentences. But today, I’d like to focus exclusively on objects (the grammatical kind).
So, what exactly is a grammatical object? Well, it’s a noun, pronoun, phrase, or clause that typically receives the action being performed by the verb. What does that mean, exactly? Let’s look at an example:
- The Cyclops adjusted his monocle.
In this sentence, Cyclops is the subject, adjusted is the verb, and his monocle is the object — because that is what’s being adjusted.
With me so far? Okay, let’s look at the difference between a direct object and an indirect object.
In a sentence, if there is a direct object it will usually follow a transitive verb (an action verb). An easy trick to identify a direct object is to take the subject and the verb, then ask what or who.
- Grendel stalked King Hrothgar. (Grendel stalked who? King Hrothgar.)
While the direct object is often, well, an object, it can also be a phrase or a clause. For example:
- Shelob loves spinning giant webs.
- Little Medusa hates when her sisters try to pet her snakes.
In both examples, you can determine the direct object using the what/who trick from above.
Sometimes, direct objects will also follow what are known as verbals, which are words that aren’t verbs, but can act as verbs. Verbals include infinitives, gerunds, and participles.
- Randy brought his binoculars to see the harpies from a safe distance. (infinitive; direct object = the harpies)
- Hearing the screams warmed the Nazgûl’s black heart. (participle; direct object = the screams)
Another trick to make sure you’ve correctly identified the direct object is to try removing it from the sentence. If your sentence no longer makes any sense, then you’ve got it right!
The first thing to know about indirect objects is that you won’t find one unless there is direct object in the sentence as well. That is because indirect objects usually receive the direct object, in one way or another. Let’s look at an example:
- The Leviathan fed her offspring bits of sailor.
In this sentence, the Leviathan is the subject and fed is the verb. The direct object (remember, what/who) is bits of sailor, and her offspring is the indirect object — because they received the direct object.
The trick to identify an indirect object is to take the subject, the verb, and the direct object, and then ask to/for/from whom.
- The lovesick manticore gave the vampire queen his blood. (The manticore gave his blood to whom? To the vampire queen.)
All right, now you should be experts on direct and indirect objects, which is good because next time I’m going to talk about transitive and intransitive verbs.