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

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Verb phrases can be simple, as in a main verb plus its helping verb, or complex, including adverbs, direct objects and indirect objects. Because a verb phrase comprises the verb itself plus other elements of the predicate, a direct object is by definition part of the verb phrase.

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.”


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.

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