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«  February 2024  »

Tuesday, 2024-02-27, 12:55 PM
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Subjects and Objects, Active and Passive, Indirect object, Realisations of indirect object, Adjuncts

12.8 Subjects and Objects, Active and Passive

A useful way to compare Subjects and Direct Objects is to observe how they behave in active and passive sentences. Consider the following active sentence:

Active: Fire destroyed the palace

Here we have a Subject fire and a Direct Object the palace.

Now let's convert this into a passive sentence:

The change from active to passive has the following results:

1. The active Direct Object the palace becomes the passive Subject

2. The active Subject fire becomes part of the PP by fire (the by-agent phrase).

12.9 The Indirect Object

Some verbs occur with two Objects:

We gave [John] [a present]

Here, the NP a present undergoes the "action" (a present is what is given). So a present is the Direct Object. We refer to the NP John as the INDIRECT OBJECT.

Indirect Objects usually occur with a Direct Object, and they always come before the Direct Object. The typical pattern is:

Subject -- Verb -- Indirect Object -- Direct Object

Here are some more examples of sentences containing two objects:



Indirect Object

Direct Object



a story

He showed


his war medals

We bought


a birthday cake

Can you lend

your colleague

a pen?


Verbs which take an Indirect Object and a Direct Object are known as DITRANSITIVE verbs. Verbs which take only a Direct Object are called MONOTRANSITIVE verbs. The verb tell is a typical ditransitive verb, but it can also be monotransitive:




Indirect Object

Direct Object


David told

the children

a story


David told


a story


As we've seen, an Indirect Object usually co-occurs with a Direct Object. However, with some verbs an Indirect Object may occur alone:

David told the children

although we can usually posit an implicit Direct Object in such cases:

David told the children the news

12.10 Realisations of the Indirect Object

NPs are the most common realisations of the Indirect Object. It is a typical function of pronouns in the objective case, such as me, him, us, and them.

Less commonly, a clause will function as Indirect Object:

David told whoever saw her to report to the police

12.11 Adjuncts

Certain parts of a sentence may convey information about how, when, or where something happened:

He ate his meal quickly (how)
David gave blood last week (when)
Susan went to school in New York (where)

The highlighted constituents here are ADJUNCTS. From a syntactic point of view, Adjuncts are optional elements, since their omission still leaves a complete sentence:

He ate his meal quickly ~He ate his meal

David gave blood last week ~David gave blood

Susan went to school in New York ~Susan went to school

Many types of constituents can function as Adjuncts, and we exemplify these below.

12.12 Realisations of Adjuncts

Noun Phrases functioning as Adjuncts

David gave blood last week
Next summer, we're going to Spain
We've agreed to meet the day after tomorrow

NPs as Adjuncts generally refer to time, as in these examples.

Adverb Phrases functioning as Adjuncts

They ate their meal too quickly
She walked very gracefully down the steps
Suddenly, the door opened

Prepositional Phrases functioning as Adjuncts

Susan went to school in New York
I work late on Mondays
After work, I go to a local restaurant

PPs as Adjuncts generally refer to time or to place -- they tell us when or where something happens.

Clauses functioning as Adjuncts

Subordinate clauses can function as Adjuncts. We'll begin with some examples of finite subordinate clauses:


functioning as



While we were crossing the park, we heard a loud explosion

I was late for the interview because the train broke down

If you want tickets for the concert, you have to apply early

My car broke down, so I had to walk


To-infinitive clause

Bare infinitive clause

-ing clause

-ed clause

Small clause

To open the window, you have to climb a ladder

Rather than leave the child alone, I brought him to work with me

Being a qualified plumber, Paul had no difficulty in finding the leak

Left to himself, he usually gets the job done quickly

His face red with rage, John stormed out of the room



You will notice that these clauses express the range of meanings that we looked at earlier (in Subordinate Clauses: Semantic Types). In all cases, notice also that the Adjuncts express additional and optional information. If they are omitted, the remaining clause is still syntactically complete.

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