Direct Object

Definition: A direct object is a noun or pronoun that receives the action of a "transitive verb" in an active sentence or shows the result of the action. It answers the question "What?" or "Whom?" after an action verb.

For example:

  • Mary burnt the toast.
    * What did Mary burn? - She burnt the toast. "toast" is the direct object

A simple direct object is only the noun or pronoun, whereas a complex direct object consists of that noun and pronoun and any modifiers that accompany it.

For example:

  • Mary burnt the toast and the eggs.
    * What did Mary burn? - She burnt the toast and the eggs. "toast" and "eggs" are the direct objects.

Useful method for determining direct objects
Another useful method for determining whether a noun or noun phrase acts as the direct object is to attempt to rephrase the sentence in the passive voice. If you can turn the sentence into the passive form, then the direct object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence. If the noun or noun phrase is not a direct object, then the sentence will not convert into a passive form.

For example:

  • Active: Todd sang a song.
    => Passive: A song was sung by Todd.
    * The direct object, "a song," of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive one.
  • Active: Ashley became a track star.
    * "A track star" is not a direct object and thus cannot become the subject in a passive sentence.

Examples

  • She closed the door.
    * "door" is the direct object because it is directly affected by her action.
  • Mail the letter and call him
    * "letter" and "him" are direct objects
  • King Arthur grabbed his sword.
    * King Arthur is the subject, because he performs the verb. "Grabbed" is the verb; "his" is a possessive pronoun; the sword is the direct object because the grabbing is performed upon it.



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