last changed in 2002
`Object' is a grammatical function, and more specifically, it is a kind of verb complement. It is also called `direct object' when an ordinary object needs to be distinguished from an accompanying `indirect' one. A typical example of an ordinary object is it in (1).
(1) Pat pushed it.
The `object' relationship is very similar to the `subject' relationship (found between Pat and pushed in this example):
(2) Jack made the cake. (The making brings the cake into existence.)
(3) Jack liked the cake. (The liking is a feeling caused by the cake.)
What distinguishes typical objects from typical subjects are the following characteristics (plus all the characteristics of subjects listed under `subject'):
(4) Pat liked/*hoped it.
(5) Pat liked/*like it.
`Object' is a kind of complement relationship, so objects need to be distinguished from other kinds of complement of a verb. This is generally easy. Suppose W is the word you think may be the object of some verb V. W is the object of V if:
(6) They remained friends.
(7) They invited friends.
(8) I think so/it/that it's raining.
(9) I wonder if/whether it's raining.
(10) What I was wondering was whether it's raining.
The words IT and WHAT are clearly pronouns, but the same is probably true of SO in (8) and WHETHER in (9).
Objects are also involved in a number of other syntactic and semantic patterns:
(11) Friends were invited. (Compare (7))
(12) We persuaded him to apply. (he applied)
(12) I bought it to read on the train. (it is bought and read)
(13) I ate a strawberry. (The eating is complete when the strawberry disappears.)
(14) *You speak well English.
The only other verb-complements which can separate the two are particles and indirect objects:
(15) I looked up the word. (up is the verb's particle)
(16) I gave you flowers. (you is the verb's indirect object)
Separation is also possible if the object is very `heavy', thanks to `heavy NP shift'.
(17) I saw yesterday two of the nicest students I had ever met.
This may explain why a verb can quite easily be separated from a `clausal' object:
(18) I wonder now why I asked.
This is an article from the Encyclopedia of Word Grammar and English grammar. If you refer to it, please give the url as "http://tinyurl.com/wg-encyc".