Guide to Direct Objects

 

Many sentences in English require a subject, a verb, and a direct object (DO). A direct object is a noun, a noun phrase or a pronoun that comes after the verb. The direct object answers the question "what?" or "who?"

Here is an example:

 

I want a Coke.
s v n (direct object= I want what? a Coke. Coke is the direct object.)

Here is another one:

 

Carole wants a dog.
s v n (DO) Carole wants (what?) a dog.

 

Different Kinds of Nouns That Can Be Used as Direct Objects

 

  • Singular Count Noun
    a dog, a cat, a book, a puzzle, a student, a place, one place ...
     
    Bob wants a new car.
    s v n (DO)

     

  • Plural Count Nouns
    two dogs, a few cats, several books, a lot of puzzles, many students, several places...
     
    Bob loves books.
    s v n (DO)

     

  • Non-Count Nouns (nouns that don't add -s and don't use "a")
    air, traffic, insurance, equipment, jewelry, cosmetics, soup, water, intelligence, independence ... You can use your dictionary to tell if a noun is non-count.
     
    I hate traffic.
    s v n (DO)

     

  • Gerunds verb+ing (verbs that act as nouns)
    playing, sleeping, boating, hiking, swimming, going, travelling, reading, enjoying, working, living ...
     
    I love playing chess. I love working in HMB.
    s v n (DO) s v n (DO)

    Don't confuse this with present continuous verb tense.
    I am going home now. You are sleeping now. We are working today.

     

  • Infinitives to+verb
    to swim, to eat, to go, to live, to know, to understand...
     
    I like to swim. I love to drink coffee.
    s v n (DO) s v n (DO)

Some verbs can only use nouns or gerunds (verbing) as the direct object:

enjoy, finish, quit, stop, keep, discuss, practice
I enjoy reading. I discussed going to Florida last week.
s v n (DO) s v n (DO)

You can use your dictionary to tell if a verb needs a gerund.

Some verbs can only use nouns or infinitives to show the direct object:

want, need, learn, play, try
I want to go home. I need to buy a new pair of shoes.
s v n (DO) s v n (DO)

Some verbs can use either a noun, a noun phrase, a gerund, or an infinitive:

like, hate, love, start, begin, continue
I like to go swimming. I like swimming.
s v n (DO) s v n (DO)
I like to go hiking. I like hiking.
s v n (DO) s v n (DO)

Use your dictionary if you can't remember if a noun is count or non-count or if a verb ends in -ing (gerund) or if "to" (infinitive) is added.

 


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