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Syntactic Theory

The Direct Object

Test for identifying direct objects in English

  • Passivization: The direct object of an active sentence appears as the subject in a passive sentence.
    • Active: Pat wrote a letter.
      Passive: A letter was written by Pat.
    • post-verbal NPs that are not direct objects do not passivize:
      Pat will always remain a good friend.
      * A good friend will always be remained by Pat.

Categories and structural position

  • The direct object is an NP in accusative case. It can also be an S'.
  • It is a sister of V and dominated by a VP.
  • A direct object that is an S' can be identified by the following criteria:
    • The S' can be replaced with this, such that this satisfies the criteria for an NP direct object:
      Pat thinks [S': that Kim is late], and I think this, too.
    • Passivization is possible:
      Pat believes [S': that Kim is late]. -> [S':That Kim is late] is believed (by Pat).

             /   \
            /    AuxP
           /     /  \
        subj    /   VP
         /     /   /  \
        /     /   /  dir.obj
       /     /   /      \
     NP   Aux   V     __NP__
    /__\   |    |    /______\
    Pat  will write  a letter.

Read further on other grammatical functions:

Categories: Glossary