What is an object?

An object has two forms: the direct object, and the indirect object. The direct object completes the function of a transitive verb. This means that it gives the verb a target for its action and answers the question what? or who? about the verb:

The boy hit the ball out of the park. In this sentence, the direct object is the ball, and it is the object, or the target of the verb hit. The boy hit what? He hit the ball.

My assistant will call you when the documents are ready. In this sentence, the direct object is you, and it is the object, or the target of the verb call. Call who? Call you.

It is important to remember that a direct object can only be used with a transitive verb. The verb go, for example, is an intransitive verb and therefore cannot take an object:

Hugh went to the store. In this sentence, to the store does not answer the question what? About the verb go, but rather the question where?. To the store is a prepositional phrase used as an adverb.

An indirect object answers the question to/for what? or to/for whom?. It must be used in conjunction with a direct object as the above questions are aimed at the direct object, not the verb itself:

The shy boy gave the pretty girl a note to express his feelings towards her. In this sentence the direct object that completes the verb gave is a note. The indirect object suggests that the note is for or to the pretty girl, or He gave a note to the pretty girl.

It is also important to remember that an object does not need to follow only a verb; it can also complete a preposition. This means that a preposition that shows movement or direction might have an object as the destination of the movement:

We spoke about the movie.

She sat in the chair.

In both of these sentences, the verbs are intransitive. This means that they do not need an object to be complete. (We spoke., and She sat. are complete sentences. The prepositional phrases that follow them are considered complements and adverbs, respectively. These will be discussed in another section).

An object may also follow a present participle, which is the  –ing form of a verb. While technically a verb, a participle is used as an adjective or adverb. Nonetheless, it may take an object (participles are discussed in their own section):

Realizing that time was running out, John quickly filled in all the missing blanks on his answer sheet.

A last note: in the passive structures, we must remember that the subject of the sentence is nevertheless the object of the verb:

The package was delivered on time = (The courier, delivery person, etc.) delivered the package on time.

As with the subject of a sentence, the object can appear in many forms. In fact, the forms are the same as those used for subjects:

Noun or Pronoun:

The team played well and won the game.

Please pass the message along to Dr. Williams.

Let me know if you find him.

Noun phrase

The older boys in the class often tease the younger and weaker kids.

Golf requires balance; you should buy shoes with spikes in the soles.

Noun clause

I’m sorry, could please repeat what you just said?

The supervisor is extremely angry and wants to know immediately how this sort of thing can happen so quickly.


Many people love being loved.

Marcy enjoys cooking for her family.

Notice the verbs in both sentences are state verbs, ones that don’t indicate an action. These verbs will commonly take a gerund as an object more so than an active verb.

Infinitive phrase

If you want to succeed in life, you need to learn to work hard.

object of want =to succeed   object of need = to learn   object of learn = to work hard

remember that every transitive verb, whether it is a main verb or an “extra” verb in a sentence, must take an object in order to be complete.

Please tell Jim to contact me as soon as possible. In this sentence Jim is the object of tell, while to contact me is a complement. A complement completes the meaning of a part of a sentence (we will look at complements in another section.) me is the object of the verb to contact.