It can be confusing to learn the different parts of a sentence. However, you may have to learn how to do it to pass a language class. One of the parts of a sentence is the direct object. This indicates the person or thing that receives the verbal action. Learning to identify this part of speech will not only help you use your language better, it could also help you if you decide to learn a foreign language.
Method 1 of 2: Identify the direct object
Step 1. Consider the purpose of the direct object
A direct object can be a noun or a pronoun and always appears after an action verb. An action verb is a verb that requires something or someone to receive that action. Without a direct object, a sentence with an action verb might not make sense at all.
- For example, consider the sentence "Dennis and Johanna ate omelettes for breakfast." If you removed the direct object, the action of the verb would no longer make much sense (“Dennis and Johanna ate for breakfast”).
- The direct object provides information about the action taken by responding to "What?" or "Who?", questions asked for the verb. In Dennis and Johanna's example, the response to "What did they eat?" it would be "tortillas."
Step 2. Find the subject of the sentence
The subject of the sentence is the person or thing that does something in a sentence. You can determine this by asking "Who?" or what?" perform the action in a sentence.
- For example, "Sam showed his mother the new museum." Who performed the action in this sentence? It was Sam. What did? He showed his mother the new museum.
- In this example, the direct object is “the new museum”. If you ask yourself, "What did he show his mother?", You can see that the museum is what he showed his mother, and that's the direct object.
Step 3. Look for the direct object in sentences with transitive verbs
If a sentence has an action verb (cook, hug, show), there is a greater chance that there is a direct object that receives the action of that verb.
- Action verbs that require a direct object are often called "transitive verbs," while action verbs that do not require a direct object are often called "intransitive verbs."
- This is an example of a transitive verb: "They hugged Jeremy very hard." In this sentence, the verb is "embraced." Ask yourself what the subject did. They "hugged." This is a transitive verb. You can know that it is transitive because if you leave the sentence as "They hugged very tight", it will no longer make sense. You need the direct object. In this case, the direct object is "to Jeremy."
Step 4. Remember that there can be more than one direct object
In some cases, a sentence could have more than one direct object, or the direct object could be a proposition. Propositions are very misleading, so you must think carefully about who or what receives the action of the verb.
- For example, "Juan took his backpack and books to school." In this case, both "backpack" and "books" are the direct object.
- This is an example of a direct object proposition: "Juan loves you making cakes." In this case, the action verb is "love" and the direct object is "make cakes." If you ask yourself "What does Juan love?", You will see that the answer is "make cakes."
Step 5. Note that some sentences will not have a direct object
Not all sentences have a direct object. For example, if the sentence has a copulative verb (for example, the verbs conjugated with "to be", "seem" and "estar"), semipredictive verbs (for example, "feel"), or an intransitive verb (for example, " sneezed "," danced "and" cried "), then it may not have a direct object.
- This is an example of a sentence with a copulative verb: "Those kids are stubborn." This copulative verb ("are") unites the subject ("those children") with the adjective ("stubborn").
- Another example of a sentence with a semipredictive verb is "Sara felt sick." In this sentence, the verb "felt" simply explains the state of the subject ("Sara").
- This is an example of a sentence with an intransitive verb: "Hanna sneezed constantly." The verb is “sneezed”, but if you ask yourself “What did Hanna sneeze?”, You will see that there is no answer, which explains why it is an intransitive verb.
Method 2 of 2: Review your work
Step 1. Ask yourself “who” or “what” receives the action
Remember that the direct object in a sentence is always a thing or a person that receives the action of the verb.
For example, in the sentence "Alice made a cake for her mother", you can quickly identify the subject who performed the action ("Alice") and the verb ("prepared"). Now ask yourself "What did he prepare?" Did you prepare your mother? No, that is not what the sentence says. The sentence says that he made a cake. So the answer is "a cake." You have now identified the direct object
Step 2. Avoid confusing the direct object with the predicative object
A predicative complement is a proposition that follows the semipredictive verb and describes the subject. It can be easy to get them confused because the predicative complement can only follow a semipredicative verb, but some semipredicative verbs are similar to some transitive verbs.
For example, "seem", "turn", "stay" and "feel" are examples of semipredictive verbs. In the sentence, "Michelle felt sad," the verb "felt" is a semi-predicative verb because it does not require any explanation to answer the questions "To whom?" or what?". However, in the sentence "Michelle felt pain." The verb “felt” is a transitive verb because it requires an explanation to the question “What did you feel?”, Whose answer is “pain”. If you removed this information, the sentence would be meaningless
Step 3. Remember that the direct object is always a noun or pronoun
If you want to identify the direct object in a sentence, it can be helpful to remember that the direct object will be a noun or a pronoun.
If the word you've identified as the direct object is a verb, adjective, or adverb, reread the sentence. Ask yourself again "What?" or "To whom?", addressing the verb. Hopefully, by asking yourself this question and looking carefully for the noun or pronoun, you will be able to identify the direct object
Step 4. Remember the order of the words
The direct object will always come after the main verb of the sentence, so it can be helpful to identify the verb first. In this way, you will know that the word you are looking for will come after that verb.
However, if you want to identify the direct object in a foreign language, such as German, this may not always be the case, as the word order can vary greatly in other languages
- Although identifying the direct object may seem difficult and tedious at first, the more you do it, the easier it will be to identify the different parts of a sentence. It may seem silly when you learn it in your Spanish class, but knowing how to identify it will really help you if you want to learn another language one day.
- If you find it difficult to know if it is a direct or indirect object, take out one part or the other. For example, "Alice made a cake" or "Alice made her mother." Ask yourself which version makes the most sense. Of course, she made a cake, not her mother.
- Be careful not to mix the direct object with the indirect object! In the example “Alice baked her mother a cake,” it may be tempting to think that “her mother” is the direct object, but it is actually the indirect object. This is because it did not receive the action of the verb ("prepared"), but rather received the result of that action (the direct object, "a cake"). The indirect object does not appear in all sentences, but if it does, there must be a direct object.