Direct Complement – Concept, how to identify it and examples

We explain what is the direct object in a sentence, examples and how to identify it. Also, what is the indirect object.

direct complement
The direct object is what the verb exerts its action on.

What is the direct object?

In grammar and syntax, one of the functions that syntactic constituents, such as phrases, nouns, pronouns and substantive subordinate clauses, can perform within the sentence is known as a direct object (OD) or direct object (CD). In this case, this function is that of the object on which the action of the verb falls, as long as the latter is a transitive verb.

In other words, the direct object is that on which the verb exerts its action, and without which the latter could not fully unfold its meaning. When studying the internal logic of the sentence (that is, its syntax), this type of complements must be identified, together with the sentence subject and the main verb, so that the direct object is always part of the predicate of the sentence.

Let’s look at an example, with the sentence “Miguel brought balloons to the party”.

  • We know that the subject of the sentence is “Miguel”, the person or entity that performs the action or to which the verb refers.
  • In the same way we know that the predicate of the sentence is “took balloons to the party” and that the core of it is the main verb, “carried”.
  • And if we ask ourselves what Miguel carried, that is, on what object the action of the verb «to carry» falls, we will have that the direct object is the noun “balloons”.
  • The rest of the sentence, “to the party”, is part of other types of complement (circumstantial) that we will not deal with for the moment.

Usually, this syntactic function falls on inanimate objects, but also on people and animals. In the latter cases, it is common for it to appear introduced by the preposition “a”, for example: “Ana wants To her boyfriend“Or” Pedro feeds To his dog”.

Note, furthermore, that these syntactic categories do not change if the order of the sentence varies: in the cases of “Miguel brought balloons to the party” or “Miguel took balloons to the party”, the direct object always remains the balloons.

How to identify the direct object?

In cases where it is not so clear what the direct complement is, we can resort to a series of strategies to identify it, such as the following:

  • Asking the verb: “what?” or “what thing?”. This is the traditional method they teach in school, but it is not always very effective. It consists of asking these questions to the verb or sentence, so that the answer reveals the direct object. For example, using the previous example, we would have to ask: “What did Miguel bring to the party?” or “What did Miguel bring to the party?” (answer: “balloons”).
  • Replace it in the sentence with accusative pronouns. If we substitute in the sentence what could be the direct object for the pronouns: “lo”, “los”, “la”, “las”, or also the pronoun “that”, we can easily identify it; but always making the exception that “it” can also identify attributes, instead of direct complements. Again, in the sentence we are using as an example, it should be converted into “Miguel led that to the party “or” Miguel the led to the party ”. In both cases, the substituted referent is the direct object, that is, “balloons”.
  • Passive voice transformation. Another strategy to find the direct object is to convert the sentence from active voice to passive voice, since the direct object will become the subject of the passive sentence. Thus, in our example sentence, “Miguel brought balloons to the party” would become “The balloons they were brought to the party by Miguel ”.

Direct complement examples

Here are some example sentences with their direct object highlighted in bold:

  • The board of directors will sell some Actions.
  • The Nazis almost conquered the world.
  • Saint Patrick evangelized to the celts.
  • My father brought fried chicken for dinner.
  • Did you receive my last email?
  • Taking that!
  • Did you put the envelopes in the drawer?
  • I already know who turned off Radio in my absence.
  • That child does not deserve gifts.
  • Who told you that?
  • It I knew from the start.
  • I wrote to him a poem to my boyfriend.
  • Leak a bit of tea ginger on your laptop.
  • The I have here in my pocket.
  • Another family finally bought home.
  • In the spring they planted those trees.
  • Don’t tell me anymore those things!

Indirect compliment

Just as there is the direct object, it is also possible to identify the indirect object (CI) or indirect object (OI) in a sentence, only in this case the indirect object refers to the entity that receives, is affected or constitutes the goal of the action expressed by the verb.

IQ usually refers more to a person (for example, who benefits or is harmed by the action) than to a thing. It is usually a complement not mandatory for transitive verbs, whose appearance or omission does not prevent the latter from expressing their meaning fully.

Thus, for example, in the sentence “I took my motorcycle to the mechanic”, we have an unspoken subject (“I”), a main verb (“I took”), a direct object (“my motorcycle”) and an indirect object: “ the mechanic”.

Circumstantial complement

The circumstantial complement, unlike the two previous cases, is a syntactic function that usually performs an adverbial, nominal or prepositional phrase. As the name implies, its function is to incorporate the circumstances in which the action of the verb occurs: the time, the place, the way, the quantity, the cause, and so on.

Therefore, there is a wide variety of circumstantial complements, which should not be confused with the direct object or the indirect object.

Thus, for example, in the sentence “Yesterday afternoon my mother came”, we have a sentence subject (“my mother”) and a main verb (“wine”), and the rest of the predicate is a phrase that characterizes the action of the latter, that is, a circumstantial complement of time: “Yesterday afternoon.”