Direct Object: Definition, Usage and Examples

We continue publishing educational posts that will ameliorate your writing skills. Today’s article will focus on direct object in English. This grammatical category comes together with the notion of transitive and intransitive verbs that we discussed previously. Yet thanks to this post, every reader will be able to acquire even deeper knowledge in this grammar section, which will consequently yield greater results for college writing. Remember that each piece of information published here is a work of professionals and is aimed at helping students succeed in their studies. Take as much as it is possible from our exclusive first free online essay proofreader.

What is a direct object in the English language?

Let’s closely examine direct objects and find out what they are. This grammatical category shows towards what or whom the subject in a sentence directs its action. Usually an object is a noun or a pronoun:

  • I’ve been reading a book the whole evening. – I’ve been reading it the whole evening.
  • I saw these beautiful gardens yesterday. ­­– I saw them yesterday.

As opposed to indirect objects, direct ones usually take no prepositions before them. Sometimes phrases and clauses can play the role of a direct object too:

  • John thought that he would never find another woman of this kind in his whole life.
  • The dog wanted to play with a rubber ball.

Now our editors for students have a quick tip for you on placing a direct object appropriately. The common structure of an English sentence supposes that an object goes right after a verb: subject – verb – object. If a sentence is a negative or interrogative one, with both an auxiliary and a main verb, place the object after the latter:

  • Last week the boy didn’t watch many detective movies.
  • Did the boy watch many detective movies last week?

As you see, you can modify objects using other words. In the examples given above, there is the adjective “many” that stands before the object and illustrates this kind of sentence structure. Use such language pattern to make the text rich in details.

How to identify a direct object in a sentence?

To start using direct objects properly, it is vital to learn how to notice them in texts. It will gradually move you closer to creating outstanding essays, but only if you combine this piece of advice with other tips as well: So, here we will continue with exclusive life hacks how to identify a direct object without mistakes. Now you know its usual place in a sentence, but if the problem remains, this algorithm may help.

  1. Find the verb in a sentence and start asking questions to determine the relations between the words. For instance, direct objects will answer only questions “what?” and “whom?” Moreover, it is unlikely for you to encounter an additional preposition there. (Everybody saw (whom?) Mike on TV last night.)
  2. The same rule applies if the direct object is a whole phrase. It will nevertheless answer the question “what?” (I hate (what?) watching girls cry.)
  3. Try to change the sentence into passive. For the most part, a direct object taken from a structure in the Active Voice will be converted into the subject of a corresponding passive sentence. (Lily waters the flowers every evening before going to bed. – The flowers are watered every evening.)
  4. If you tried these steps, and the result does not make any sense, it is most likely that there is not any direct objects in the sentence. Maybe there is an indirect one? (The woman fell (from what?) from the stairs and broke (what?) her leg. – Only the second object is direct because the first one has a preposition before it, and it certainly would not become the subject of the same sentence in the Passive Voice.)
  5. It is also important to remember that a direct object can only depend on a main verb. Look at this sentence: You are (what?) disappointed. Although the questions coincide, here the word “disappointed” will be a part of the predicate because it follows an auxiliary verb, not a main one. What is more, this sentence has no main verb at all. It might be essential to learn the difference between main and auxiliary verbs if you do not know it yet.

Until now we have shared only a part of what we know. Professional writers from Royal Editing are acquainted with much more details when it comes to the nuances of English grammar (you can learn them too if you read our article on how to practice grammar all by yourself). This knowledge helps us to remain unsurpassed in the task of providing high-quality editing services. If you are eager to entrust a college paper to us, take a look at these articles and learn more about our services:

How to use direct objects in school and college texts properly?

Here you will learn what parts of speech can undertake the function of a direct object. For those students who feel out of their depth when it comes to determining parts of speech, we can recommend one of our previous articles that is fully devoted to this topic: Meanwhile, this guide will help everyone organize thoughts for an essay in a grammatically correct manner.

First of all, nouns are perfect direct objects (with or without determiners and quantifiers, and also with or without adjectives in front of them):

  • I laid the flowers on the desk and went to the kitchen to make some coffee.
  • Bob was surprised to see his mother in a restaurant like this.
  • Lizzy was determined to buy a chocolate ice cream for the child.

Secondly, feel free to use pronouns as direct objects:

  • I’m in so much pain after what I’ve done! Could you ever forgive me?
  • The situation didn’t bother him at that time.
  • What’s about the hotel room? Have you booked it?

Thirdly, both cardinal and ordinal numerals can act as direct objects in English sentences:

  • How many oranges do you want? – I’ll take four.
  • Talking about those photos that we looked through previously, I liked the first better than the second.

In the fourth place, you can express a direct object by an infinitive:

  • Did you ask your friend to wait a little bit?
  • She told Dan to follow the rules and outlined the consequences in case he decided to cheat.
  • We wanted to get there as quickly as possible.

Finally, consider using a gerund as a direct object:

  • He remembered having taken pictures of this couple.
  • There are people who prefer reading psychological books rather than fiction.
  • I hate cooking dishes where you have to slice onions.

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We hope this guide was of great help in the task of mastering a direct object in English. We remind you that this is neither the first nor the last post in the grammar series that explains the difficulties of English grammar. Subscribe to our newsletter to keep updated on new articles in this section. Meanwhile, check out previous posts devoted to our academic editing services. Here is a number of links to start with, and if it gets interesting, you can always write a message to our managers and request even more details.