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Many sentences in English require a subject, a verb, and a direct object (DO). A direct object is a noun, a noun phrase, or a pronoun that comes after the verb. The direct object answers the question “what?” or “who?”

I want a Coke.
s v n (direct object= I want what? a Coke. Coke is the direct object.)
Carole wants a dog.
s v n (DO) Carole wants (what?) a dog.

Kinds of Nouns Used as Direct Objects

  • Singular-Count Noun: a dog, a cat, a book, a puzzle, a student, a place, one place …
    • Bob wants a new car.
  • Plural-Count Nouns: two dogs, a few cats, several books, a lot of puzzles, many students, several places…
    • Bob loves books.
  • Non-Count Nouns (nouns that don’t add -s and don’t use “a”): air, traffic, insurance, equipment, jewelry, cosmetics, soup, water, intelligence, independence … Your dictionary will tell if a noun is non-count.
    • I hate traffic.
  • Gerunds (verbs that act as nouns with the addition of “-ing”): playing, sleeping, boating, hiking, swimming, going, travelling, reading, enjoying, working, living …
    • I love playing chess.
    • I love working in HMB.
    • Don’t confuse this with present continuous verb tense.
      • I am going home now.
      • You are sleeping now.
      • We are working today.
  • Infinitives (to + verb): to swim, to eat, to go, to live, to know, to understand…
    • I like to swim
    • I love to drink coffee.

Verbs With Direct Objects

  • Some verbs can only use nouns or gerunds (verb + -ing) as the direct object (enjoy, finish, quit, stop, keep, discuss, practice). Your dictionary will tell if a verb needs a gerund.
    • I enjoy reading
    • I discussed going to Florida last week.
  • Some verbs can only use nouns or infinitives to show the direct object (want, need, learn, play, try).
    • I want to go home.
    • I need to buy a new pair of shoes.
  • Some verbs can use either a noun, a noun phrase, a gerund, or an infinitive (like, hate, love, start, begin, continue).
    • I like to go swimming.
    • I like swimming.

Use your dictionary if you can’t remember if a noun is count or non-count or if a verb ends in -ing (gerund) or if “to” (infinitive) is added.

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