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A synthetic study of transitive verbs taking direct objects
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Joi, 08 Februarie 2018 21:04



prof. Drăgian Ana-Elena

Colegiul Tehnic ,,Constantin Brâncuşi’’ Oradea

Having in mind the complexity of the English verb and relating it with transitivity and the presence of the direct object in order to convey round messages, we may distinguish more situations:

a) transitive verbs with only one direct object

b) transitive verbs with two direct objects

c) transitive verbs with two different objects:

d) one direct, the other indirect

e) one direct, the other prepositional

f) intransitive verbs followed by cognate (direct) objects

g) transitive verbs which may be used intransitively, the object
becoming the subject (ergative verbs)

h) complex verbs (phrasal verbs) with direct objects

Transitive Verbs with One Direct Object

This kind of verbs represents most of the transitive verbs in English. The examples may be various:

address complete eat introduce read

admit cover establish kill raise

admire cut fill list receive

allow demand find love see

build discover give mention seek

buy discuss grant meet trust

carry destroy hire need value

choose drink hit produce write

These direct objects stay immediately after the transitive verb in the

sentence, before the adverbial modifiers. Whenever a sentence containing a predicate expressed by a transitive verb and one direct object is transformed in the passive, the object goes into the passive subject and the subject becomes the agent:

e.g. I shall give the reccommendation tomorrow.

The reccommendation shall be given tomorrow. She met Susan on her way to work.

Susan was met on her way to work.

The pupil read the letter from his parents.

The letter from his parents was read by the pupil. She never found her peace.

Her peace was never found.

Still, there are some transitive verbs with one direct object and cannot be turned into passive:

contain measure take

cost possess wish

have resemble want

lack suit

e.g. We have a great experience.

The parcel contains some books. You resemble your grandma. The effort costs a lot of money. It takes three minutes to get there. I wish you Merry Christmas!

The investigators wanted an exact portrait of the victim.
Only the verb to want may be used in the passive voice, when it is a person who suffers the action:

e.g. She wanted you in her office.

You were wanted in her office.

Transitive Verbs with Two Direct Objects

There are few verbs requesting two direct objects in English. Each of the objects corresponds to a different question: one answers to whom?, the other to what?. The first direct object is correlated with a person, while the second refers to a thing/an object proper. In Romanian, the English direct object of the person is usually rendered by an indirect object. That is why students come across
puzzling situations when they encounter such double objects in a sentence.
Not all English transitive verbs have the same quality in Romanian, for example. Translation from one into another reveals many dissimilarities between them. The verbs to ask and to teach are transitive in both idioms. They are the only common element when it comes to double objects. Excepting these, each language has its own list of transitive verbs with two direct objects, though
restricted to some fixed occurrences. In the table below we give the most
representative verbs in English:

answer entreat save

ask forgive strike

call hear teach

envy request

Transitive Verbs with Two Different Objects

Direct Object + Indirect Object

These verbs known as ditransitive verbs combine with two different objects in the order mentioned:

e.g. He bought a present for mother.
They gave the tickets to Mary.

There are quite a lot of verbs which necessarily take both a direct and an indirect object. The usual word order is respected in the following situations:

1) when we want to emphasize the indirect object:

e.g. I sent the note to him. (not to you)

She brought these roses for me. (not for my sister)

2) in some cases this order is compulsory:

when the indirect object is followed by a subordinate clause: e.g. Mimi gave a book to his friend [who is meeting her].

when the indirect object is long or modified by attributes: e.g. The young couple sent wedding invitations to all their ten
beloved cousins. (the head noun phrase discharging the function of indirect object has four different adjectival determiners) e.g. He owes his life to the good treatment [prescribed by the
physician]. (the indirect object is modified by an attribute: a non-finite verbal form-past participle + an agent)

when the direct object is a personal pronoun: e.g. Give it to the poor.

when the two objects are expressed by personal pronouns: e.g. I lent it to them.

Send them to us.

after verbs as: to address, to announce, to communicate: e.g. We shall announce the meeting to the committee.
I communicated the result to the candidates.

3) The order may be switched and we place the indirect object after the
verb. In this case, the preposition to or for is omitted:
e.g. He has told the policeman the whole truth.

Why don't you keep me company?

I suggested John a new solution.

address explain leave promise spare

allow fetch lend propose speak

announce finish mention read start

begin forgive offer reveal suggest

bring forward owe refuse tell

buy give pass say translate

communicate grant pay sell wish

deny hand post send write

describe introduce prescribe show

drive keep pronounce sing

When the sentence containing a direct and an indirect object is turned into the passive voice, both objects can become subjects:

e.g. a) active — They sent a postcard to their friends.

We have written a letter for our parents. passive — A postcard was sent to their friends.
A letter has been written for our parents.

The direct object becomes the subject and the indirect one maintains its function, being a retained indirect object.

b) passive — Their friends were sent a postcard.

Our parents have been written a letter.

The indirect personal object changes into subject, while the direct object stays the same, being a retained direct object.

In the current discourse the second variant is more likely to be encountered, as it stresses the person at whom the action aims. The first one

focuses on things/objects. Because we are often more interested in people (or

animals) than things, personal subjects tend to be more common than impersonal ones.

In sentences where the indirect object is rendered by a personal pronoun, to or for can be omitted before it, but not usually otherwise:
e.g. He gave this box to me.

This box was given to me.

This box was given me. but we say This box was given to my cousin.

However, if both direct and indirect objects are pronouns, some verbs

such as: to bring, to buy, to fetch, to give, to hand, to pass, to send, to show, to teach can be used as follows, particularly in everyday speech:
e.g. Give me it. or Give it me.

Show me it. or Show it me.

The first sentence in the set of examples is more common than the second. The pattern Give it me doesn't often occur with verbs other than give. The use of the object pronoun them (Give them me) is very rare.

Direct Object + Prepositional Object

There are quite a lot of transitive verbs used with prepositional objects after them. The most frequent preposition are: about, against, at, for, from, in, of, on, to, with. The usual pattern is verb + somebody/something (D.O. + preposition (+ object). The verbs indicated below are classified by the type of direct object (person/thing) and the preposition they take:

A. 1) Verb + somebody + about:

advise — He advised Mary about her prenuptial contract.

inform — The doctor informed the patient about his disease.

tell — Mark always tells us about ghosts.

2) Verb + somebody + against:

advise — I advised my mother against buying those products.

insure — He insured the house against fire.

3) Verb + somebody + for: to admire, to ask, to blame, to
compensate, to excuse, to forgive, to neglect, to search

e.g. We shall never admire her for her cowardice.
Don't blame him for your failure.

Forgive my child for having behaved so rudely.

4) Verb + somebody + from: • defend — The Romanian had to defend themselves from the

prevent — His brother prevented him from doing his duty.

stop — I have stopped daddy from snoring so awful.

5) Verb + somebody + of

cure — The medicine cured the patient of his breakdown.

deprive — In many comunist countries the state deprives people
of their rights.

remind — Please remind me of the exam again.

6) Verb + somebody +on:

congratulate — The president congratulated the champions on
their winning the cup.

7) Verb + somebody + to:

appoint — They appointed him to the leadership of the

convert The religion converted pagans to a christian life.

8) Verb + somebody + with: to associate, to charge, to cure, to
compare, to connect, to help

e.g. I associate the green colour with dynamism and good mood.
The jury charge the prisoner with murder.

B. 1) Verb + something + at:

assess — The buyer assessed the goods at an expensive price.

2) Verb + something + for:

arrange — We shall arrange the schedule for you.

neglect — She neglected the competition for a stupid show.

reserve — The singer reserved some tickets for the concert.

use — Father often uses the knife for digging around flowers.

3) Verb + something + from:

hide — She will hide the sweets from her little brother.

steal — The robber stole the car from the Smiths.

translate — Translate the text from Romanian.

4) Verb + something + in:

include — She didn't include the drinks in the menu.

invest — The company invested money in the shares.

5) Verb + something + with: to associate, to combine, to compare, to
discuss, to identify, to share.

e.g. She would associate the idea with the script of the film.
I identified myself with the hero's sufferance.
Why don't you share your happiness with us?

When the direct object has determiners or is expressed by a subordinate clause, the prepositional object is placed immediately after the verb:
e.g. They accepted with joy the invitation to go in a foreign country.

In the passive transformation, the direct object becomes the formal subject of the construction and we shall have a prepositional retained object:
e.g. The idea would be associated with the script of the film.

The Usage of the Direct Object in English deals with each type of verbs taking direct objects. I established six kinds of occurences: transitive verbs with one direct object, with two direct objects, with two different objects; intransitive verbs with cognate objects; ergative and complex verbs.

Many times the meaning of the direct object is completed by another part of the sentence: the Object Complement. But, the word order is a very important element when we speak of the sentence and its components in general. I tried to give a detailed set of examples and their specific usage, always relating the direct object with other objects: indirect and prepositional.


1. Alexander L. G., 1996 Longman English Grammar, Longman

2. Bantaş Andrei, 1996 Descriptive English Syntax, Institutul European

3. Badescu L. Alice, 1984 Gramatica limbii engleze, Ed. Ştiintifică şi
Enciclopedică, Bucureşti

4. Budai Laszlo, 1986 English Syntax (Theory and Practice), Tankonyvki
Ado, Budapesta

5. Chitoran Dumitru, Panovf Irina, Poenaru Ioana, 2000 Exerciţii de gramatică engleză, Ed. Teora, Bucureşti


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