WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE, EH? PART 9: A ‘DIRECT’ HIT…OR NOT!

It’s time again to enlarge our repertoire or catalogue of grammatical labels. So far, we have been introduced to the following terms when parsing (analyzing) a sentence:

SUBJECT: The word or words that names or name what is being talked about. (Yes, I dangled my preposition…more about that faux pas later.)

BARE SUBJECT: The most important naming word or words (remember that conjunctions can join two words as in the following example: Mary and Tom are related. Mary/Tom are the bare subjects.) (Check this one out: Neither the doctor, his nurse nor his patient has seen the results of the tests. The bare subjects are doctor, nurse and patient.)

MODIFIERS OF THE BARE SUBJECT: Words or groups of words that enhance or add details to the bare subject(s).

PREDICATE: The word or words that tells or tell about the subject.

BARE PREDICATE: The action or linking word or words that specify what the bare subject is up to, has been up to, or will be up to (tense).

MODIFIERS OF THE BARE PREDICATE: If the bare predicate shows action, we look for words that tell how, when, where or why about the bare predicate. If the bare predicate is non-action there may be a word that completes or means the same as the bare subject.

SUBJECTIVE COMPLETION: A word that follows a non-action or linking bare predicate and means the same as or completes the bare subject.

All right everyone, time to throw you two more pieces of the puzzle.

1. DIRECT OBJECT OF THE VERB.

2. INDIRECT OBJECT OF THE VERB.

Yep! That’s all we have for you today…and really, if you get good at picking these babies out of a line, you will begin to understand right from wrong when writing or speaking. Let’s begin with #1: What exactly is a DIRECT OBJECT OF THE VERB? Look at the following two examples paying particular attention to the words in bold letters; these are the direct objects of the verb (which are written in italics).

Example 1: Santa Claus brings presents each year.

Example 2: Many music fanatics adore the Beatles.

‘presents’ and ‘Beatles’ both follow an action verb and answer the question ‘what’ or ‘who’ about the bare predicate or verb. Both words are nouns but they could be pronouns. Take Example 2 for instance. It could have read, ‘Many music fanatics adore them. That’s it in a nutshell! A DIRECT OBJECT TELLS ‘WHAT’ OR ‘WHO’ ABOUT AN ACTION VERB. End of story…well, not quite…we now have to show you what an indirect object of a verb is…

Okay grammar fanatics, don’t lose your focus. All we are going to do is reuse Example 1 and slip in an indirect object of the verb. Ready…steady…bring it on!

Example 3: Santa Claus brings us presents each year.

‘brings’ is the action verb or bare predicate

‘presents’ is the direct object of the verb since it tells us what Santa brings.

‘us’ tells us to whom or for whom Santa brings the presents. This, ladies and gents, is the indirect object of the verb or bare predicate.

Now analyze this sentence completely:

1. The generous Bloggingfrog bought Lily a new pad on which to relax.

Here’s how it should go:

Subject: ‘The generous Bloggingfrog’  Bare Subject: ‘Bloggingfrog’ Modifiers of the bare subject: ‘the’ and ‘generous’

Predicate: ‘bought Lily a new pad on which to relax’ Bare Predicate: ‘bought’

Modifiers of the bare predicate: No words or phrases tell when, where, how or why about the bare predicate or verb, so there aren’t any! So now we ask ourselves, “Is the bare predicate an action verb?” The answer is yes! Okay, so what are the rest of the words doing? Is there, for example, a word that tells us ‘what’ Bloggingfrog bought? ‘pad’ is correct so we have identified the direct object of the verb or b.p.. Next, is there a word that tells us for whom the pad was bought? Yes, it’s Lily, so now we have identified the indirect object of the verb. Great, but not quite finished…’on which to relax’ is left…Hopefully, you were able to recognize ‘on’ as a preposition which starts the phrase. If so, all you have to do is find which word this phrase describes. You have two choices: ‘bought’ or ‘pad’…

If you chose ‘pad’ then give yourself a pad, we mean pat, on the back! ‘on which to relax’ is a prepositional or adjective phrase describing the noun (direct object) ‘pad’.

Oh, but we feel a certain uneasiness within our group. If you have any doubts about the indirect object, then we should take a moment to clarify. Let us return to Example 3:

Santa brings us presents each year.

Suppose the above sentence had read, “Santa brings presents to us each year.”

What’s different about the two statements?

You got it! In the second sentence, we tossed in the word ‘to’ and if you’ve been following closely, ‘to’ is a preposition so it introduces a phrase. In this case, the phrase is ‘to us’ and it tells us where the presents are brought. ‘to us’ , therefore, is a prepositional (or adverb) phrase, NOT the indirect object).

Tricky? Yes! So how can we tell the difference? Easy…if there is no preposition, we have an indirect object of the verb (‘to’ whom or ‘for’ whom is understood but do NOT appear in the sentence). Once we insert a preposition, then we change the nuance of the sentence and must look for a prepositional or adverb phrase.

Let’s look again…we have nothing better to do. Right?

1. We are studying grammar rules. (‘rules’ is the direct object of the verb phrase ‘are studying’. It tells us what we are studying.)

2.  The teacher gave the class a test. (‘test’ tells us what the teacher gave so it is the direct object of the verb ‘gave’)…(‘class’ is the indirect object of the verb ‘gave’ and tells us to whom the test was given.)

3. The teacher gave a test to the class. (‘test’ again tells us what the teacher gave so it is the direct object of the verb ‘gave’)…(‘to the class’ is a prepositional (adverb) phrase which modifies the verb ‘gave’)…Do you see the difference?

4. Give him the credit. ***Please notice that this is an imperative sentence (or a command). We often do not say it but ‘you’ is the implied subject and bare subject. ‘credit’ tells us what must be given so it is the direct object of the verb ‘give’)…(‘him’ tells us to whom  credit must be given, so it is the indirect object of the verb ‘give’)

5. Paul McCartney is a favourite Beatle. Aha! If you think Beatle is the direct object of the verb ‘is’, then you had better think again. Why? Because the verb ‘is’ is one of those non-action verbs or states of being so you’ll NEVER find a direct or indirect object following.  ‘Beatle’ tells us what McCartney is (or means the same as Paul McCartney) so it is considered to be the subjective completion.

There, that’s enough for now! Go back, review, think, and try to make some sense of it all, after which, we’ll forge onward on our ‘Watch Your Language, eh?’ journey. Stay thirsty (for knowledge) my friends…best wishes,

Bloggingfrog & Lily

WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE, EH? PART 7: LET IT ‘BE’…


Question: What do the following words have in common? AM, IS, ARE, WAS, WERE, BEEN, ARE BEING, MIGHT HAVE BEEN, SHOULD HAVE BEEN,
 COULD HAVE BEEN…

Answer: They’re a bunch of slackers…so to speak.

In truth, they are what grammarians would call the only true non-action, or linking verbs (some of you Baby Boomers may have been told they are copula verbs…we’ll accept that too!). These verbs are like a lot of teenagers who prefer just to hang out and do as little as possible. The thing is, however, they’re a very important group!

In blog #6, we made brief mention of a ‘subjective completion’. A subject completion (same thing, fewer letters to type) does exactly what it says. It completes (means the same as) or describes the subject (bare subject that is). And where, pray tell, does one find a subject completion? In the predicate, of course!

Please don’t leave! We know it sounds strange but that’s the nature of the King’s English (he too was a bit odd, to say the least)…Actually, when we break it down for you (parse a sentence) it should become quite clear. Like so…

It is she.  It‘ is the subject and bare subject since there are no modifiers. ‘Was’ is the verb but notice it shows no action, rather a state of being. ‘Was’ links or connects the bare subject and ‘she’, which, as you can see, completes or means the same as ‘it’. Et voila, ‘she’ is our subjective completion.

In all likelihood, most people would have used ‘her’, not ‘she’. The clue, however, comes after we parse the sentence and see that the word that follows the non-action verb (‘was’)  completes or means the same as the bare subject..

Quickly…back to your Personal Pronoun Chart…you have two choices: the subjective or objective case of the pronoun (she or her). All signs point to subjective…as in subjective completion. ‘She’ wins!

The same is true for each of the non-action or linking verbs from the above chart.

It was they. (not It was them.) I am he. (not I am him) It might have been I. (not It might have been me.)

There’s more to this subjective completion thing…lots more! It was important to make this brief stop along the way and try to explain the truth about things that sound quite strange (but are true). It’s all about connections isn’t it? “The hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone…the thigh bone’s connected to the knee bone, and on and on…”

Grammar is anatomy! Analyze that my friends. Go ahead. Pick this three-word sentence apart and see the connections. Shoot for the stars…(“You want the moves like Jagger…I’ve got the moves like Jagger…I’ve got the mooooooooooves like Jagger”). Thanks Maroon 5…we needed that! Okay, here we go:

Grammar‘ is our subject and bare subject (since it stands alone). It comes from the noun family. “is” is the bare predicate (a non-action or linking verb). ‘anatomy‘ is the subjective completion since it follows a non-action verb and completes the subject. It too is a noun.

Fabulous! And speaking of the Fab 4 (who never moved like Jagger) try this one:

For several decades the Beatles have been unbelievably popular. 

Question (Q): Of whom are we speaking? In other words, what is the subject?

Answer (A): ‘The Beatles’.

Q: Which of the two words is the bare subject (most important naming word)?

A: ‘Beatles’ (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeahhhhh….)

Q: What word modifies (in this case makes it definite…as in article) the bare subject?

A:  ‘The‘ (duh!)

Q: What is the predicate?

A: ‘have been unbelievably popular for several decades‘ (this statement has been written in split order)

Q: What is the bare predicate?

A: ‘have been‘ (‘been’ is one of those non-action or linking verbs…’have’ is there to give it support and suggest that the Beatles should continue to be popular).

Q: Is there a subject(ive) completion? (hint: where there’s a non-action or linking bare predicate or verb, then chances are there will be a word that completes or describes the subject)

A: ‘popular‘ is the subject completion.

Q: Do any words or groups of words modify the bare predicate? (hint: ask the questions ‘how’, ‘where’, ‘when’ or ‘why’ and you’ll be able to pick out modifiers.)

A: ‘for several decades’ modifies the bare predicate (tells us ‘when‘ or ‘how’ long‘)

Q: Which word have we not included in our analysis? What is its function?

A: ‘unbelievably‘ tells us ‘how’ popular.

Great! Now that we have broken the sentence into its component or functional parts (parsed the sentence), let’s name each word accordingly. In other words, what part of speech is each word?

For several decades‘ is an adverb phrase. ‘For’ starts the phrase (preposition). ‘several‘ modifies ‘decades’ (adjective). ‘decades‘ is the object of the preposition ‘for’ (noun).

the‘ (definite article belonging to adjective family)

Beatles‘ (noun)

have been‘ (verb phrase…‘have’ is the auxiliary or helping verb and ‘been’ is the main or principal verb)

unbelievably‘ (adverb…adverbs usually end in ‘ly‘ and can describe verbs, other adverbs and in this case, adjectives)

popular‘ (adjective)

“O-bla-di, O-bla-da life goes on brah!” That’s enough for one day but if you are a Beatles’ fan, let’s close today’s ‘show’ with a reworked version of another ‘unbelievably popular’ Fab 4 tune:

It’s been a hard day’s night

And we’ve been parsing like a fool,

Oh such a hard day’s night

Yes, we’ve been to Grammar school,

But we just wanna cry

If we use ‘me’ not ‘I”

Can make us fe-el uptight!…

And with that, we bid you goodnight. If anyone out there in Grammarland would like to try his or her hand at rewriting a Beatles’ classic, we invite you to send us your lyrics to the tune of “Eight Parts of Speech” (8 Days A Week)…Google these tunes if you’ve never heard them…keep smiling,

Bloggingfrog & Lily