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What Are Objects and Complements?


A verb may be followed by an object that completes the verb's meaning. Two kinds of objects follow verbs: direct objects and indirect objects. To determine if a verb has a direct object, isolate the verb and make it into a question by placing "whom?" or "what?" after it. The answer, if there is one, is the direct object:

Direct Object
The advertising executive drove a flashy red Porsche.
Direct Object
Her secret admirer gave her a bouquet of flowers.

The second sentence above also contains an indirect object. An indirect object (which, like a direct object, is always a noun or pronoun) is, in a sense, the recipient of the direct object. To determine if a verb has an indirect object, isolate the verb and ask to whom?, to what?, for whom?, or for what? after it. The answer is the indirect object.

Not all verbs are followed by objects. Consider the verbs in the following sentences:

The guest speaker rose from her chair to protest.
After work, Randy usually jogs around the canal.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Verbs that take objects are known as transitive verbs. Verbs not followed by objects are called intransitive verbs.

Some verbs can be either transitive verbs or intransitive verbs, depending on the context:

Direct Object
I hope the Senators win the next game.
No Direct Object
Did we win?

Subject Complements

In addition to the transitive verb and the intransitive verb, there is a third kind of verb called a linking verb. The word (or phrase) which follows a linking verb is called not an object, but a subject complement.

The most common linking verb is "be." Other linking verbs are "become," "seem," "appear," "feel," "grow," "look," "smell," "taste," and "sound," among others. Note that some of these are sometimes linking verbs, sometimes transitive verbs, or sometimes intransitive verbs, depending on how you use them:

Linking verb with subject complement
He was a radiologist before he became a full-time yoga instructor.
Linking verb with subject complement
Your homemade chili smells delicious.
Transitive verb with direct object
I can't smell anything with this terrible cold.
Intransitive verb with no object
The interior of the beautiful new Buick smells strongly of fish.

Note that a subject complement can be either a noun ("radiologist", "instructor") or an adjective ("delicious").

Object Complements

An object complement is similar to a subject complement, except that (obviously) it modifies an object rather than a subject. Consider this example of a subject complement:

The driver seems tired.

In this case, as explained above, the adjective "tired" modifies the noun "driver," which is the subject of the sentence.

Sometimes, however, the noun will be the object, as in the following example:

I consider the driver tired.

In this case, the noun "driver" is the direct object of the verb "consider," but the adjective "tired" is still acting as its complement.

In general, verbs which have to do with perceiving, judging, or changing something can cause their direct objects to take an object complement:

Paint it black.

The judge ruled her out of order.

I saw the Prime Minister sleeping.

In every case, you could reconstruct the last part of the sentence into a sentence of its own using a subject complement: "it is black," "she is out of order," "the Prime Minister is sleeping."

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