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Can There Be a Direct Object When There Is a Verb Phrase?

Updated April 17, 2017

Direct Objects

A direct object is the noun or pronoun that carries the action of the verb. In the sentence, “Zeke saw a wombat,” the direct object is “wombat”; it is what the subject, Zeke, saw. The verb phrase in this sentence is “saw a wombat,” the verb itself, the direct object (noun) and the article, “a.”

Phrasal Verbs

Some verbs in English are inherently two-part constructions; these idioms include a second word, called a participle, which completes the meaning of the verb. These phrasal verbs can take direct objects, and the whole construction then becomes a verb phrase in the general sense. An example is “pick up,” which has a different meaning as a verb than simply “pick.” For example, “Zeke picked up the wombat.” “Wombat” is still the direct object, what he picked up. “Picked up” is the two-word phrasal verb, and the whole predicate is the verb phrase “picked up the wombat.”

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About the Author

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.