linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and structure. Linguis ...
, an object is any of several types of
arguments An argument is a statement or group of statements called premises intended to determine the degree of truth or acceptability of another statement called conclusion. Arguments can be studied from three main perspectives: the logical, the dialect ...
. In subject-prominent, nominative-accusative languages such as English, a
transitive verb A transitive verb is a verb that accepts one or more objects, for example, 'cleaned' in ''Donald cleaned the window''. This contrasts with intransitive verbs, which do not have objects, for example, 'panicked' in ''Donald panicked''. Transiti ...
typically distinguishes between its subject and any of its objects, which can include but are not limited to direct objects, indirect objects, and arguments of adpositions ( prepositions or postpositions); the latter are more accurately termed ''oblique arguments'', thus including other arguments not covered by core grammatical roles, such as those governed by case morphology (as in languages such as
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around present-day Rome, but through the power of ...
) or
relational noun Relational nouns or relator nouns are a class of words used in many languages. They are characterized as functioning syntactically as nouns, although they convey the meaning for which other languages use adpositions (i.e. prepositions and postposi ...
s (as is typical for members of the
Mesoamerican Linguistic Area The Mesoamerican language area is a ''sprachbund'' containing many of the languages natively spoken in the cultural area of Mesoamerica. This sprachbund is defined by an array of syntactic, lexical and phonological traits as well as a number of ethn ...
). In ergative-absolutive languages, for example most
Australian Aboriginal languages The Indigenous languages of Australia number in the hundreds, the precise number being quite uncertain, although there is a range of estimates from a minimum of around 250 (using the technical definition of 'language' as non-mutually intellig ...
, the term "subject" is ambiguous, and thus the term " agent" is often used instead to contrast with "object", such that basic word order is often spoken of in terms such as Agent-Object-Verb (AOV) instead of Subject-Object-Verb (SOV). Topic-prominent languages, such as Mandarin, focus their grammars less on the subject-object or agent-object dichotomies but rather on the pragmatic dichotomy of
topic and comment In linguistics, the topic, or theme, of a sentence is what is being talked about, and the comment (rheme or focus) is what is being said about the topic. This division into old vs. new content is called information structure. It is generally ...



In English traditional grammar types, three types of object are acknowledged: ''direct objects'', ''indirect objects'', and ''objects of prepositions''. These object types are illustrated in the following table: Note that indirect objects are frequently expressed as objects of prepositions, complicating the traditional typology; e.g. "I gave salt ''to the man''."

Other languages

Some Chinese verbs can have two direct objects, one being more closely bound to the verb than the other; these may be called "inner" and "outer" objects. Secundative languages lack a distinction between direct and indirect objects, but rather distinguish primary and secondary objects. Many African languages fall into this typological category.

Syntactic category

While the typical object is a pronoun, noun, or noun phrase, objects can also appear as other syntactic categories, as illustrated in the following table for the English language: :::::


A number of criteria can be employed for identifying objects, e.g.: ::1. Subject of passive sentence: Most objects in active sentences can become the subject in the corresponding passive sentences. ::2. Position occupied: In languages with strict
word order In linguistics, word order (also known as linear order) is the order of the syntactic constituents of a language. Word order typology studies it from a cross-linguistic perspective, and examines how different languages employ different orders. C ...
, the subject and the object tend to occupy set positions in unmarked declarative clauses. ::3. Morphological case: In languages that have case systems, objects are marked by certain cases (accusative, dative, genitive, instrumental, etc.). Languages vary significantly with respect to these criteria. The first criterion identifies objects reliably most of the time in English, e.g. ::Fred gave me a book. ::a. A book was given (to) me.—Passive sentence identifies ''a book'' as an object in the starting sentence. ::b. I was given a book.—Passive sentence identifies ''me'' as an object in the starting sentence. The second criterion is also a reliable criterion for
analytic language In linguistic typology, an analytic language is a language that conveys relationships between words in sentences primarily by way of ''helper'' words (particles, prepositions, etc.) and word order, as opposed to using inflections (changing the ...
s such as English, since the relatively strict word order of English usually positions the object after the verb(s) in declarative sentences. In the majority of languages with fixed word order, the subject precedes the object. However, the opposite is true for the very small proportion (approximately 2.9%) of the world's languages that utilize object–subject word order by default.

Verb classes

Verbs can be classified according to the number and/or type of objects that they do or do not take. The following table provides an overview of some of the various verb classes: ::::: Ergative and object-deletion verbs can be transitive or intransitive, as indicated in the following table: :::::::::: The distinction drawn here between ergative and object-deletion verbs is based on the role of the subject. The object of a transitive ergative verb is the subject of the corresponding intransitive ergative verb. With object-deletion verbs, in contrast, the subject is consistent regardless of whether an object is or is not present.

In sentence structure

Objects are distinguished from subjects in the syntactic trees that represent sentence structure. The subject appears (as high or) higher in the syntactic structure than the object. The following trees of a
dependency grammar Dependency grammar (DG) is a class of modern grammatical theories that are all based on the dependency relation (as opposed to the ''constituency relation'' of phrase structure) and that can be traced back primarily to the work of Lucien Tesni ...
illustrate the hierarchical positions of subjects and objects:Dependency trees similar to the ones produced here can be found in Ágel et al. (2003/6). :: The subject is in blue, and the object in orange. The subject is consistently a dependent of the
finite verb Traditionally, a finite verb (from la, fīnītus, past participle of to put an end to, bound, limit) is the form "to which number and person appertain", in other words, those inflected for number and person. Verbs were originally said to be '' ...
, whereas the object is a dependent of the lowest non-finite verb if such a verb is present.

See also

* Subject (grammar) * Predicate (grammar) *
Dependency grammar Dependency grammar (DG) is a class of modern grammatical theories that are all based on the dependency relation (as opposed to the ''constituency relation'' of phrase structure) and that can be traced back primarily to the work of Lucien Tesni ...
* Object pronoun * Prepositional pronoun *
Transitive verb A transitive verb is a verb that accepts one or more objects, for example, 'cleaned' in ''Donald cleaned the window''. This contrasts with intransitive verbs, which do not have objects, for example, 'panicked' in ''Donald panicked''. Transiti ...
* Intransitive verb *
Oblique case In grammar, an oblique (abbreviated ; from la, casus obliquus) or objective case ( abbr. ) is a nominal case other than the nominative case, and sometimes, the vocative. A noun or pronoun in the oblique case can generally appear in any role ex ...
* Differential object marking * Subject–verb inversion in English * predication *
predicand In semantics, a predicand is an argument in an utterance, specifically that of which something is predicated. By extension, in syntax, it is the constituent in a clause typically functioning as the subject. Examples In the most typical case ...
* raising



*Ágel, V., L. Eichinger, H.-W. Eroms, P. Hellwig, H. Heringer, and H. Lobin (eds.) 2003/6. Dependency and valency: An international handbook of contemporary research. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. *Biber, D. et al. 1999. Longman Grammar of spoken and written English. Essex, England: Pearson Education limited. *Carnie, A. 2013. Syntax: A generative introduction, 3rd edition. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. *Collins Cobuild English Grammar 1995. London: HarperCollins Publishers. *Conner, J. 1968. A grammar of standard English. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. *Freeborn, D. 1995. A course book in English grammar: Standard English and the dialects, 2nd edition. London: MacMillan Press LTD. *Keenan, E. and B. Comrie 1977. Noun phrase accessibility and universal grammar. Linguistic Inquiry 8. 63–99. *Kesner Bland, S. Intermediate grammar: From form to meaning and use. New York: Oxford University Press.

External links

Direct Objects
{{DEFAULTSORT:Object (grammar) Syntactic entities