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How to Find a Direct Object

Two Methods:

Learning the different parts of a sentence can be confusing. However, you may need to learn how to do this to pass an English class. One of the parts of a sentence is the direct object. The direct object tells us who or what something was done to. Practicing how to identify this part of a sentence will not only help you use your own language well, it may also help you if you decide to learn a foreign language.


Identifying the Direct Object

  1. Consider the purpose of the direct object.A direct object could be a noun or a pronoun, and always follows an action verb. An action verb is a verb that requires something or someone to receive that action.Without a direct object, a sentence that contains an action verb may not make any sense.
    • For example, consider the sentence, “Dennis and Johanna ate omelettes for breakfast.” If you were to remove the direct object from the sentence, the verb’s action no longer makes much sense (“Dennis and Johanna ate for breakfast.”)
    • The direct object gives us information about the action that was performed by telling us for whom or for what the action was performed.In the example of Dennis and Johanna, the eating was performed for the omelettes.
  2. Find the subject of the sentence.The subject of the sentence is the person/thing doing something in a sentence. You can determine this by asking yourself “who” or “what” is performing the action in a sentence.
    • For example, “Sam showed his mother the new museum.” Who performed an action in this sentence? Sam did. What did he do? He showed his mother the new museum.
    • In this example, the direct object is “the new museum.” If you ask yourself, “What or whom was shown?” You can see that the museum is what was shown, and is the direct object.
  3. Look for the direct object in sentences with “transitive” action verbs.If a sentence contains an action verb (cook, hug, show) there is a greater chance that a direct object will exist to receive the action of that verb.
    • Action verbs that require a direct object are often called “transitive verbs”, while action verbs that don’t require a direct object are often referred to as “intransitive verbs.”
    • An example of a transitive action verb: “They gave Jeremy the money.” In this sentence, the verb is “gave.” Ask yourself what the subject ("they") did. The subject “gave.” This is a transitive verb. You can tell it's transitive, because if you left the sentence at “they gave Jeremy,” the sentence would no longer make sense. This verb needs a direct object. In this case, the direct object is "money," because the money is what was given. ("Jeremy" is the indirect object, to whom the money was given.)
  4. Keep in mind that there can be more than one direct object.In some cases, a sentence may have more than one direct object, or the direct object may be a clause. Clauses can be particularly misleading, so think carefully about who or what is receiving the action of the verb.
    • For example, “John took his backpack and books to school.” In this case, both “backpack” and “books” are direct objects.
    • An example of a direct object clause exists in this sentence: “John loves baking cakes.” In this case, the action verb is “loves,” and the direct object is “baking cakes.” If you ask yourself, “what does John love?”, you will see that the answer is, “baking cakes.”
  5. Recognize that some sentences will not have a direct object.Not all sentences will contain a direct object. For example, if the sentence contains a “linking” verb (e.g. am, is, are), “state of being” verb (seem, remain, feel), or an intransitive action verb (e.g. sneezed, danced, cried) , then it may not contain a direct object.
    • An example of a linking verb is included in the following sentence: “They are stubborn children.” The linking verb here (“are”) links the subject (the children) with the adjective (“stubborn”).
    • An example of a state of being verb: “Sarah felt ill.” In this sentence, the verb “feels” simply explains the state of the subject (Sarah).
    • An example of an intransitive action verb: “Hannah sneezed repeatedly.” The verb here is, “sneezed”, but if you ask yourself, “Who or what did Hannah sneeze?” You will find that there is no answer in the sentence which explains that.

Checking Your Work

  1. Ask yourself “whom” or “what” is receiving the action.Try to remember that the direct object in a sentence is always a thing or a person who received the action of the verb.
    • For example, in the sentence, “Alice baked her mother a cake.” You can quickly identify the subject who performed the verb (Alice) and the verb (baked). Now ask yourself, “What or whom was baked?” Was her mother baked? No, that’s not what the sentence says. The sentence says that she baked a cake. What was baked? A cake! You have now identified the direct object.
  2. Avoid mistaking the direct object for a subject complement.A subject complement is a clause that follows the action verb, and describes the subject. It can be easy to confuse these because subject complements can only follow a linking verb, but some linking verbs can also be used as action verbs.
    • For example, “appear”, “grow”, “remain”, “smell”, and “turn.” are all examples of linking verbs that can also be used as action verbs. In the sentence, “Michelle felt sick.” The verb, “felt” is a linking verb because it does not require any explanation of whom or what. However, in the sentence, “Michelle felt her forehead.” The verb, “felt” is an action verb because it requires an explanation of whom/what was felt, in this case, her forehead. If you were to remove this information, the sentence would not make sense.
  3. Remember that direct objects are always nouns or pronouns.If you are trying to identify the direct object in a sentence, it can be helpful to remember that the direct object will either be a noun or it will be a pronoun.
    • If the word you have identified as the direct object is a verb, adjective, or an adverb, try reading the sentence again. Ask yourself again, “To whom or what was the action done?” Hopefully, asking yourself this, and look carefully for a noun or pronoun will help you identify the direct object.
  4. Keep word order in mind.The direct object will always come after the verb in a sentence, so it can be helpful to identify the verb first. This way, you will know that the word you are looking for will be after the verb.
    • Keep in mind, though, that if you are trying to identify a direct object in a foreign language, such as German, this may not always be the case as word order can vary dramatically among languages.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    In the sentence "India has been prosperous," what is the direct object?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    This sentence does not have a direct object because there is no action verb. In order to have a direct object, a sentence's verb cannot be a form of "to be," such as "has been." The word "prosperous" is a subject complement or predicate adjective in this sentence.
  • Question
    In the sentence "She collects seashells and rocks",there would be no indirect object, right? "Seashells and rocks" would be direct.
    Top Answerer
  • Question
    What is the object in "Tom told Ron a lie"?
    Top Answerer
    What is being told? A lie. That makes "lie" the direct object of the verb "told." Who or what receives the direct object (the lie)? It's Ron. "Ron" is the indirect object of the verb.
  • Question
    Is 'me' a direct object in "ask me a question"?
    Top Answerer
    What's being asked is "a question." That makes "question" the direct object. "Me" is the indirect object, because "me" is who receives the question.
  • Question
    Isn't Number 3 is absolutely wrong? Direct objects can be non-finite to-infinitive clauses as in 'He started [to work again]'.
    Top Answerer
    You are correct: "to work" is an infinitive verb used here as a direct object. However, it is acting as a "verbal noun," so that the article above is also correct.
  • Question
    How do I classify an infinitive phrase as a direct object?
    Top Answerer
    An infinitive phrase can be the object of a verb just as easily as a noun or pronoun can. For example, "I want to live happily." "To live happily" is the object of the wanting.
  • Question
    What's the direct object in "Few things are better for relaxing than a satisfying hobby."
    Top Answerer
    There is no direct object. "To be" verbs (such as "are") don't have direct objects.
  • Question
    What is the direct object in "No, the lights did not stay off for long"?
    Top Answerer
    There's no direct object in that sentence.
  • Question
    What is the direct object in: "The cobbler sold the man his shoes."
    Top Answerer
    The direct object is "shoes," because the act of selling is being performed on the shoes. "Man" is the indirect object, because he is the recipient of the selling.
  • Question
    I got this question wrong in class. What is the direct object in "We asked Joe and Lee a lot of questions about their vacation plans"? Is it "lot"?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes. Since "questions" is the object of a preposition ("of"), it is not a direct object.
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  • While identifying the direct object may seem challenging and tedious at first, the more you do it, the easier it will become to identify all the different parts of a sentence. It may seem dumb when you are learning it in your English class, but understanding how to do this will really help you if you want to learn a new language someday.
  • If you are having trouble figuring out whether it is an indirect or direct object, try taking out one part or another. For example, “Alice baked a cake.” or “Alice baked her mother.” Ask yourself which version makes more sense. Of course she baked the cake, not her mother (we can hope).
  • Be careful not to mix up the direct object of the sentence with the indirect object! In the example, “Alice baked her mother a cake.” It might be tempting to think that Alice’s mother is the direct object, but she is actually the indirect object. This is because she did not receive the action of the verb (baked), but rather, she received the result of that action (the direct object, the cake). Indirect objects do not appear in every sentence, but if they do, there must be a direct object.


  • If you are trying to identify the direct object of a sentence in a language other than the English language, the steps provided are still relevant. However, because word order may differ among some languages, it is not always safe to assume that the direct object will follow the action verb. For example, in German, in more complex sentences the action verb might be at the very end of the sentence, even if the direct object appears in the middle of the sentence.

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Date: 02.12.2018, 19:04 / Views: 81592