by Tom Fasano
The principal uses of a noun in a sentence are:
1. Subject of a Verb
3. Direct Object of a Verb
Subject of a Verb. A noun may be used as a subject of a verb.
The birds flew away.
The man jumped off the bridge.
Here comes the train.
The subject names the person or thing about whom or which something is said by the verb. In some sentences the subject follows the verb, as in the last example above.
Predicate Noun. A noun may be used as a predicate noun.
The president became a dictator.
The mayor is Bill Henry.
My grandfather was a clockmaker.
The gangster turned snitch.
Normally a predicate noun follows the verb and answers the question who? or what? and it stands for the same person or object as the subject. For example, “The president became what?” — Answer, a dictator. “The mayor is who?” — Answer, Bill Henry. The dictator is the same person as the president (subject); Bill Henry is the same person as the mayor (subject).
Direct Object of a Verb. A noun may be used as the direct object of a verb.
The carpenter built a house.
The soldier killed the enemy.
The direct object names the receiver of the action indicated by the verb; it answers the question what? or whom? and it stands for a person or thing different from the subject. For example, “The carpenter built what?” — Answer, a house. “The soldier killed whom?” Answer, the enemy. The house is not the same person or thing as carpenter (subject); the enemy is not the same person as soldier (subject).
Both the predicate noun and the direct object of a verb answer the same question, what? or who? (whom?). They are easily distinguished, however, by their relation to the subject: the predicate noun stands for the same person or thing as the subject; the direct object stands for a different person or thing. The only exception occurs in use of a reflexive pronoun to be covered in a future lesson.
The direct object occasionally precedes the subject of the verb.
These shoes she bought in Paris.
Indirect Object of a Verb. A Noun may be used as the Indirect Object of a Verb
The man gave his wife a gift.
Mary bought her grandmother a Christmas card.
The indirect object tells to whom or to what, for whom or to whom something is done. In the first sentence above, the direct object gift tells what the man gave, and the indirect object wife tells to whom he gave it; in the second sentence, the direct object Christmas card tells what Mary bought, and the indirect object grandmother tells for whom she bought it.
A phrase beginning with the preposition to or for can be used in place of an indirect object. In such instances the first sentence would become “The man gave a gift to his wife”; the second sentence would become “Mary bought a Christmas card for her grandmother.” With an indirect object, the to or for is never expressed in the sentence; were it expressed, the noun would be an object of a preposition (to be covered in the next podcast) and not an indirect object.
Also in the classification of indirect objects are certain nouns that are equivalent to of whom when used after the verb ask. Thus the sentence, “The teacher asked the student a question,” is equivalent to “The teacher asked a question of the student.” In this instance the idea of to is also present, because asking something of a person is the syntactic equivalent of addressing one’s self to him.
Copyright © 2012 Thomas Fasano.
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