Object (grammar)

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In linguistics, the object of a transitive verb is one of its core arguments, which generally represents the target of the verb's action or the undergoer of its effects. In more general terms, an object is a patient.

Verbs with no object (as in the sentence "I run") are called intransitive verbs. Those which do take objects are called transitive verbs. Transitive verbs which take only one object are known as monotransitive. Ditransitive verbs have two objects, a patient and a recipient. See thematic role.

The following monotransitive verbs have direct objects marked in bold:

She ate the apple.
The philosophers discussed their theories.

In inflected languages, objects may be marked using morphological case. In many languages, the patient of a ditransitive verb is marked in the same way as the single object of a monotransitive verb, and is called the direct object. The recipient has its own marking, and is called the indirect object. In Latin, the direct object is marked by the accusative case, while the indirect object is typically marked by the dative case.

In more isolating languages such as English, objects are marked by their position in the sentence or using adpositions (like to in I gave a book to him). Modern English preserves a case distinction for pronouns, but it has conflated the accusative and the dative into a single objective form (him, her, me, etc., which may function either as direct or indirect objects).

In some languages, the recipient of a ditransitive verb is marked in the same way as the single object of a monotransitive verb, and is called the primary object. The patient of ditransitive verbs has its own marking, and is called the secondary object. Such languages are called dechticaetiative languages, and are mostly found among African languages. Some claim that English is also dechticaetiative, for example in the following sentences:

His colleagues gave him a present.
I sent my mother a card.

An object can be turned into a syntactic subject using passive voice, if the language in question has such a construction. In dative languages, the direct object is promoted, while in dechticaetiative languages the primary object is promoted.

In the immense majority of languages, where there is a preferred word order in the sentence, the object is placed somewhere after the subject. Analytic languages additionally tend to place the object after the verb, so that it remains separate from the subject.

See also

de:Objekt (Grammatik) eo:Objekto (gramatiko) pl:Dopełnienie (gramatyka)


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