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

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