The Grammatical Object - Part 1: What is the object?

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

What is the grammatical object? Is it an essential part of every sentence?

Changed or created by the verb

Every English sentence has a subject (except imperatives), and a verb. These are the foundation of the most basic sentences, such as 'We cooked.'

An object is a component that adds more information. The object describes who or what is changed or created by the verb. We can add an object to the short sentence above: 'We cooked eggs.'

The 'eggs' were affected by the action of cooking.

We can see from our example sentence that the object 'eggs' is not necessary for functional grammar, but it provides more information which may be helpful or necessary, depending on the context.

Here are some more examples of sentences with and without the object.

Michael is reading.

Michael is reading a letter.

My cousin paints.

My cousin paints portraits.

People, places and things

The object is not always about a concrete thing that is created or affected by the verb. The object can be any noun or pronoun that is created or affected by the verb. The relationship between the verb and object can be abstract, and it may not always be about making changes to the object.

I visited a small beach.

We used your phone.

Do you like my new boyfriend?

The 'small beach', 'phone' and 'new boyfriend' are not really changed by the action of the verb. However, they are the receiver and focus of the action. This makes them grammatical objects.

What kinds of words can be objects?

We have seen that an object can be any noun or pronoun. The object can also be a verb in the 'ing form' when used as the name of an activity. This name-verb is called a gerund, and it can take the place of a noun.

I really hate camping.

Have they discussed building a house?

Notice that the last object, 'building a house', is made up of several words that function as a single unit to describe one activity or idea. This shows that an object can contain more than one word.

We can see more about the grammatical object in the following blog posts:

Part 2: Direct and indirect objects

Part 3: When (and when not) to use objects

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