Subjects and objects

All verbs have a subject. The subject is generally the person or thing that the sentence is about. It’s often the person or thing that performs the action of the verb in question and it usually (but not always) comes before the verb:

Catherine

followed

Jonathan.

[subject]

 

[object]

He

was eating a

sandwich.

[subject]

 

[object]

 

In imperative sentences (i.e. ones that express a command), the subject is usually understood without being explicitly stated:

Come here at once!

(i.e. ‘You come here at once!’ – the subject you is understood.)

 

Some verbs have an object as well as a subject. The object is the person or thing affected by the verb:

Catherine

followed

Jonathan.

[subject]

 

[object]

He

was eating a

sandwich.

[subject]

 

[object]

 

An object can be a noun (as in the examples above), a phrase, or a pronoun :

Catherine followed Jonathan and his brother.
  [noun phrase]
Catherine followed

them.

  [pronoun]

 

Direct objects and indirect objects

There are two different types of object: direct objects and indirect objects. A direct object is, as its name suggests, directly affected by the action of the main verb. In the following two sentences, ‘a drink’ and ‘a story’ are direct objects: ‘a drink’ was bought and ‘a story’ was being read.

Jonathan

bought

a drink.

[subject]

 

[direct object]

He

was reading

a story.

[subject]

 

[direct object]

An indirect object is usually a person or thing that benefits in some way from the action of the main verb. Take a look at the following sentences:

Jonathan

bought

Catherine

a drink.

[subject]

 

[indirect object]

[direct object]

He

was reading

his daughter

a story.

[subject]

 

[indirect object]

[direct object]

‘Catherine’ has received a drink, but it is ‘the drink’ that has been bought. ‘His daughter’ is hearing the story, but it’s ‘the story’ that is being read. You can often reword such sentences to make it easier to identify the direct object:

Jonathan bought a drink for Catherine.

He was reading a story to his daughter.

 

Go back to Verbs.

 

Read more about:

Transitive and intransitive verbs

Phrasal verbs

Participles

Moods

 

 


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Grammar and usage