Ways of expressing the object

§ 68

1. A noun in the common case or a nominal phrase, a substantivized adjective or participle.

I saw the boys two hours ago.

The nurses were clad in grey.

First of all she attended to the wounded.

Greedily he snatched the bread and butter from the plate.

2. A noun-pronoun. Personal pronouns are in the objective case, other pronouns are in the common case, or in the only form they have.

I don’t know anyone here.

I could not find my own car, but I saw hers round the corner.

He says he didn’t know that.

3. A numeral or a phrase with a numeral.

At last he found three of them high up in the hills.

4. A gerund or a gerundial phrase.

He insists on coming.

A man hates being run after.

5. An infinitive or an infinitive phrase.

She was glad to be walking with him.

Every day I had to learn how to spell pages of words.

6. Various predicative complexes.

She felt the child trembling all over.

I want it done at once.

Everything depends on your coming in time.

7. A clause (then called an object clause) which makes the whole sentence a complex one.

I don’t know what it was.

He thought of what he was to say to all of them.

Thus from the point of view of their structure, objects may be simple, phrasal, complex or clausal.*

* Complex objects with verbal and non-verbal second elements (objective predicatives) are treated in detail in § 124-129.

Types of object

Section 69 From the point of view of their value and grammatical peculiarities, four types of objects can be distinguished in English:

the direct object, the indirect object, and the cognate object.

1. The direct object is a non-prepositional one that follows transitive verbs, adjectives, or statives and completes their meaning. Semantically it is usually a non-person which is affected by the action of the verb, though it may also be a person or a situation. The situation is expressed by a verbal, a verbal phrase, a complex, or by a clause.

I wrote a poem.

You like arguing, don’t you?

Who saw him leave?

I don’t know what it all means.

She was ready to sing.

When the direct object is expressed by an infinitive (or an infinitive phrase or a clause) it may be preceded by the formal introductory objectit (see § 78).

I find it exciting to watch tennis.

He found it hard to believe the girl.

2. The indirect object also follows verbs, adjectives and statives. Unlike the direct object, however, it may be attached to intransitive verbs as well as to transitive ones. Besides, it may also be attached to adverbs, although this is very rare.

From the point of view of their semantics and certain grammatical characteristics indirect objects fall into two types:

a) The indirect object of the first type is attached only to ditransitive verbs. It is expressed by a noun or pronoun which as a rule denotes (or, in the case of pronouns, points out) a person who is the addressee or recipient of the action of the verb. So it is convenient to call an object of this type the indirect recipient object. It is joined to the headword either without a preposition or by the preposition to (occasionally for). The indirect recipient object is generally used with transitive verbs.

He gave the kid two dollars.

She did not tell anything to anyone.

Will you bring a cup of coffee for me?

b) The indirect object of the second type is attached to verbs, adjectives, statives and sometimes adverbs. It is usually a noun (less often a pronoun) denoting an inanimate object, although it may be a gerund, a gerundial phrase or complex, an infinitive complex or a clause. Its semantics varies, but it never denotes the addressee (recipient) of the action of the governing verb. So it may be called the indirect non-recipient object. The indirect non-recipient object can only be joined to its headword by means of a preposition.

One must always hope for the best.

She’s not happy about her new friend.

The indirect non-recipient object is used mainly with intransitive verbs. It is usually the only object in a sentence, at least other objects are not obligatory.

3. The cognate object is a non-prepositional object which is attached to otherwise intransitive verbs and is always expressed by nouns derived from, or semantically related to, the root of the governing verb.

The child smiled the smile and laughed the laugh of contentment.

They struck him a heavy blow.

4. The retained object. This term is to be applied in case an active construction is transformed into a passive one and the indirect object of the active construction becomes the subject of the passive construction. The second object, the direct one, may be retained in the transformation, though the action of the predicate-verb is no more directed upon it. Therefore it is called a retained object.

§ 70. The direct object is used irrespective of the absence or presence of other objects attached to the same verb.

He wrote the article two weeks ago.

Tommie did not know anything about it.

Ned ordered him to start.

Some English verbs which take a direct object correspond to Russian verbs followed by an indirect non-recipient object with a preposition. These verbs are:

to address smb to affect smb, smth to answer smth to approach smb, smth to attend smth to enjoy smth to enter smth to follow smb, smth to join smb, smth to mount smth to need smth, smb to play smth to reach smth to watch smb, smth address someone influence someone, something respond to something approach, approach someone, something be present at something enjoy something enter into something follow someone, something join someone, something ride, climb something need something, someone play on something, something reach, get to something -to follow someone or something

The position of the direct object

§ 71. The most usual position of the direct object is that immediately after the predicate verb it refers to.

Then he found her in the hall.

The direct object is separated from the predicate verb in the following cases:

1. If there is a non-prepositional indirect recipient object to the same verb in the sentence. In this case, the direct object follows the indirect one.

I never told him anything.


The direct object may come before the non-prepositional indirect object if it is the pronoun it, and the indirect object is any other personal pronoun.

I never told him.

Give it to me, will you?

2. If the direct object is modified by a phrase or a clause. In this case it may be separated from the verb by a prepositional indirect non-recipient object or an adverbial.

Ged had kept for his winter journey the cloak lined with fur.

He took into his hands a small beast.

3. If the direct object is expressed by a noun or a pronoun (except a personal pronoun) referring to a phrasal predicate verb consisting of a verbal part and a postposition such as about, back, down, in, off, on, out, over, through, up.

He laid down his stick.

Ged took off his cloak that was heavy with water.

With most of those verbs, however, the direct object may also precede the adverb.

He laid down his stick. = He laid his stick down.

If expressed by a personal pronoun, the direct object always precedes the postposition.

He laid down his stick. = He laid it down.

§ 72. The direct object comes before the predicate verb it refers to in the following cases:

1. In pronominal questions referring to the direct objector to its attribute.

What did they give you?

Whose car was he driving?

Which piece shall I take?

2. In certain exclamatory sentences.

What a wonderful boat he has built!

3. In case it is necessary to connect the idea expressed in this sentence with the preceding one. This makes the object more emphatic.

The people of the village gathered in silence to watch his quick hands.

This job too he did well and patiently.

4. For the sake of emphasis or contrast.

I enjoyed arithmetic, as always. Grammar I could not understand at least.

The indirect object

The indirect recipient object

§ 73. As has been mentioned above, the indirect recipient object is used mainly with transitive verbs, which thus take two objects, and are accordingly called ditransitive. Verbs governing the indirect recipient object fall into two classes, which in accordance with their general semantics are called verbs of benefaction and verbs of inducement.

Verbs of benefaction denote an action that is addressed to a person or is done for that person’s sake or benefit.

First she gave him his supper.

I’ve bought a pair of beautiful earrings for you , dear.

Verbs of inducement denote an action which causes a person to do some other action.

Ann told him to leave her alone.

I beg you to forgive me.

§ 74. The indirect recipient object is generally used together with the direct object and precedes it (see the examples above).

If the indirect object is attached to a verb of benefaction, the direct object is usually a noun, a pronoun, or a clause.

Bring the man his things.

I told her everything.

They didn’t show him what it was.

Some verbs of benefaction can take an infinitive or a gerund as their direct object.

Help me (to) do it.

She promised me to be punctual.

Miss Craggs taught them singing.

If the indirect recipient object is attached to a verb of induction, the direct object can only be an infinitive or an infinitive phrase.

She asked him to come to dinner.

When attached to verbs of benefaction, the indirect recipient object may sometimes be used alone, that is, without a following direct object. This occurs:

a) Where it is attached to the predicate verb in the passive.

At the last check was given to her and she left.

b) After the verbs to answer, to ask, to envy, to forgive, to help, toteach.

She used to teach me once.

I’ve helped you all my life.


The indirect recipient object may also be used alone after the verbs to read, to explain, to dictate, to spell, to sing, to write, but in the case of the first five it always takes the preposition to, whereas with to write both forms are possible.

Why do you never read to me now?

Will she sing to us tonight?

At first she wrote to him twice a week.

Write me back as soon as you get the cable.

When attached to verbs of induction, the indirect recipient object can never be used alone.

Form and positionof the indirect recipient objects

§ 75. As to their form and position the following cases must be distinguished:

1. If the indirect recipient object is attached to a verb of inducement, it is always non-prepositional and has a fixed position in the sentence just before the direct object.

Mother ordered me to get down.

He urged her to write a story about it.

2. If it is attached to the verbs of benefaction to announce, to ascribe, to attribute, to communicate, to contribute, to dedicate, to dictate, to disclose, to explain, to interpret, to introduce, to open, to point out , to repeat, to submit, to suggest, it is always prepositional and has two possible positions in the sentence, either before the direct object or after it. In both cases it is governed by the preposition to. It usually precedes the direct object if the latter is modified by an attribute.

He dictated the letter to his secretary.

Up to her death in 1935 she did not open to me her secret.

Then she explained to me the cause of her refusal.

3. If the indirect recipient object is attached to a verb of benefaction other than those listed above, its form and position vary according to certain rules:

a) The indirect recipient object is non-prepositional when it precedes the direct object.

She offered him a sandwich.

Jane sang me a song.

b) The indirect recipient object is prepositional when it follows the direct object. In this case the most frequent preposition is to.

She has given some kind of task to each girl.

I’m going to offer something to you.

If the indirect recipient object denotes a person for whose benefit the action is done, it has the preposition for.

I’ll buy this for you.

c) The position of the indirect recipient object after the direct object is sometimes obligatory. This is the case either when both objects are personal pronouns, as in:

Give him to me.

Send me to them.

or when the direct object is a personal pronoun, while the indirect object is a noun, as in

Give them to Nanny.

Show it to John.

If the direct object is the pronoun it and the indirect recipient object is any other personal pronoun, the indirect recipient object may take the preposition or not.

Give it to him = Give it to him.

The latter is more colloquial.

§ 76. Sometimes the indirect recipient object may be placed before the predicate verb. This occurs in the following cases:

1. In pronominal questions referring to the indirect recipient object or its attribute.

Whom did you show the brooch to ?

To whom did you send the parcel?

Which boy has she given the money to ?

To which porter did you give your suitcase?

As seen from the examples, the preposition to can either its position after the direct object or retain before the question word. Questions of the first type are characteristic of colloquial style, while those of the second type are formal.


In colloquial speech the nominative case form who often replaces the objective form whom. In this case, the preposition can only be placed at the end of the sentence.

Who did you give the money to ?

2. In attributive clauses.

This friend of his whom she had shown the letter to did not appear to know anything.

The man to whom she had given two loaves of bread never came back.

3. If the object is to be made more emphatic for the sake of contrast.

To you he’s telling his tales, not to me.

The indirect non-recipient object

§ 77. The indirect non-recipient object is a prepositional object that follows both transitive and intransitive verbs and completes their meaning, The indirect non-recipient object may be preceded by various prepositions.

I thought about it a good deal.

Invention arises from idleness.

How would you deal with the problem?

I could hardly stand on my skates then.

The formal object it

§ 78. Some verbs cannot take an infinitive object or a clausal object. In this case the formal object it precedes the notional object. It is called introductory (or anticipatory) it. The sentence thus has two objects, the formal object it and a notional object, which is an infinitive or a clause. The formal object it may be either a direct object, or an indirect non-recipient object.

1. As a direct object it occurs after the verbs to take, to like, to find, to understand, to learn and some others.

Is she to take it that everything is O.K.?

I understand it that you are my wife’s brother.

We found it difficult to talk to him.

2. As an indirect non-recipient object it occurs after certain verbs which take objects with obligatory prepositions: to count (on), to depend (on), to hear (of), to insist (on), to object (to) and some others.

He objected to it that they should be taken to the island too.

§ 79. There is another use of it as a formal object: it can be attached to transitive or intransitive verbs to convey a very vague idea of some kind of an object.

I was angry. I made him take the present away. An hour later he returned and we made it up.

We therefore decided that we would sleep out on fine nights, and hotel it , and inn it , and pub it , when it

was wet.

The recognize object

§ 80. The verbs that most frequently take a cognate object are:

to live (a life), to smile (a smile), to laugh (a laugh), to die (a death), to sigh (a sigh), to sleep (a sleep), to

dream (a dream), to run (a race), to fight (a, fight,, a battle).

He died the death of a hero.

Here she stopped and sighed a heavy sigh.

One must live one’s own life, you know.

The cognate object is always used with words modifying it, never alone:

the death of a hero, a heavy sigh, one’s own life, etc.

to die the death of a hero = to die like a hero;

to sigh a heavy sigh = to sigh heavily, etc.

Semantically cognate objects characterize the action expressed by the predicate-verb. Nevertheless they are considered to be objects, not adverbial modifiers, because:

a) they are expressed by nouns without prepositions, which is not characteristic of adverbials;

b) they may occur in the position of the subject of a passive construction.

He never doubted that life should be lived as he lived.

Objects to adjectives

§ 81. There are quite a number of adjectives that can take an object, although not quite in the same way as verbs do. In the sentence these adjectives are mainly used as predicatives. The objects they take are of two kinds:

1. Direct objects are expressed only by infinitives or infinitive phrases. No noun or pronoun is ever possible in this position.

Mack was very glad to get home.

Mary was happy to have met us.

II. Indirect non-recipient objects governed by various prepositions. These objects are usually expressed by a noun or pronoun, sometimes by a gerund, a gerundial phrase or complex, or by a clause, depending on the combinability of the adjective.

Now she was ready for anything.

I was surprised at her being so shy.

She was only half conscious of what was going on.

As can be seen from the above examples, structurally objects to adjectives may be of the same types as objects to verbs, that is, simple, phrasal, complex, or clausal.

Objects to stats

§ 82. The statives that can take objects are few in number. The most frequent of them are: afraid, aware, alive, ashamed, ahead, akin. Their objects may be direct infinitive or clausal objects, or an indirect non-recipient object. The latter may be expressed by a noun (pronoun), a gerund, a gerundial phrase or predicative complex, or a clause.

She had never been afraid to experiment.

I think he was afraid I shouldn’t remember him.

I was afraid of you, my pretty.

I was not aware of your being a scoundrel.

He was fully aware of what he was doing.

Objects to adverbs

§ 83. There are some adverbs which can take objects, but these can only be indirect non-recipient objects.

Fortunately for himself, he could not be present.

The attribute

§ 84. The attribute is a secondary part of the sentence which characterizes person or non-person expressed by the headword either qualitatively, quantitatively, or from the point of view of situation. Attributes may refer to nouns and other words of nominal nature, such as pronouns gerunds and substitute words, as in:

It was a letter from his devoted friend.

I mentioned it to him when he was his usual self.

One day I put the picture up again, the lifesize one.

An attribute forms a nominal phrase with its headword.

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