Direct Object

What Is a Direct Object? (with Examples)

homeglossaryDirect Object
The direct object of a verb is the thing being acted upon (i.e., the receiver of the action).

Examples of Direct Objects

Here are some examples of direct objects (shaded):
  • Play the guitar.
  • Every actor played his part.
  • The crowd will cheer the President.
  • We can climb the hill and fly the kite.

How to Find the Direct Object of a Sentence

You can find the direct object by finding the verb and asking what? (or whom?). For example:

  • She fed the cat.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = fed)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = the cat)
    (Therefore, the direct object is the cat.)
  • Craig will read the book tomorrow.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = will read)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = the book)
    (Therefore, the direct object is the book.)

Phrases and Clauses Can Be Direct Objects

The tip above also works when the direct object is a phrase or a clause. For example:
  • She thought that the contract had ended.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = thought)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = that the contract had ended)
    (Therefore, the direct object is that the contract had ended.)
  • The constable described what he saw at the scene.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = described)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = what he saw at the scene)
    (Therefore, the direct object is what he saw at the scene.)
  • Toby loves cooking scones.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = loves)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = cooking scones)
    (Therefore, the direct object is cooking scones.)
  • The cat wants to eat our goldfish.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = wants)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = to eat our goldfish)
    (Therefore, the direct object is to eat our goldfish.)
    (Note: This direct object has its own verb with its own direct object. (Question: to eat what? Answer: our goldfish.))

Only Transitive Verbs Have Direct Objects

When a verb has a direct object, it is called a transitive verb. Some verbs do not have a direct object. They are known as intransitive verbs. For example:
  • Malcolm fell very badly.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = fell)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = Nothing. You can't fall something.)
    (Therefore, there is no direct object. The verb to fall is intransitive.)
  • Joan is sleeping at the moment.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = sleeping)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = Nothing. You can't sleep something.)
    (Therefore, there is no direct object. The verb to sleep is intransitive.)

Do Not Confuse Complements with Direct Objects

If you ask what? with a linking verb, you will find a verb complement not a direct object. For example:
  • Peter is happy.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = is)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = happy.)
    (However, on this occasion, happy is not the direct object. This is because is (i.e., the verb to be) is a linking verb.)

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