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Object Pronouns in English Grammar

Pronouns are small words that can take the place of nouns, noun phrases, and other grammatical forms. Object pronouns are pronouns that perform four functions in clauses: direct object, indirect object, object complement, and prepositional complement. Direct objects are words, phrases, and clauses that follow a transitive verb and receive the action of the verb. Indirect objects are words, phrases, and clauses that follow a ditransitive verb and indicate to or for whom or what the action of the verb is performed. Prepositional complements are defined as the word, phrase, or clause that directly follows the preposition and completes the meaning of the prepositional phrase. Object complements are defined as words, phrases, and clauses that directly follow and describe or complete the direct object. Pronouns from the five categories of pronouns in the English language can function as object pronouns.

Personal Pronouns as Object Pronouns

Personal pronouns may function as object pronouns. Personal pronouns are pronouns that take the place of common and proper nouns with known antecedents. The object pronouns in English are:

  • me (first person singular)
  • you (second person singular)
  • him (third person singular masculine)
  • her (third person singular feminine)
  • it (third person singular neuter)
  • us (first person plural)
  • you (second person plural)
  • them (third person plural)

For example:

  • My puppy licked you. (direct object)
  • The burglar stole it. (direct object)
  • The man bought her chocolate. (indirect object)
  • She gave him some milk. (indirect object)
  • Six packages arrived for us. (prepositional complement)
  • Put the potatoes by me. (prepositional complement)

Personal pronouns generally do not function as object complements.

Demonstrative Pronouns as Object Pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns may function as object pronouns. Demonstrative pronouns are pronouns that provide additional information about the proximity of the word, phrase, or clause replaced by the pronoun. The four demonstrative pronouns in English grammar are:

  • this
  • that
  • these
  • those

All four demonstrative pronouns can function as object pronouns. For example:

  • Send this to the corporate headquarters. (direct object)
  • The dog stole those. (direct object)
  • You should give that some thought. (indirect object)
  • He sent those new bills. (indirect object)
  • She painted her house that?! (object complement)
  • You dyed your hair this?! (object complement)
  • Some people wait their whole lives for this. (prepositional complement)
  • Set the tray by that. (prepositional complement)

Indefinite Pronouns as Object Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns may function as object pronouns. Indefinite pronouns refer to unspecified persons, places, things, and ideas and are most commonly used in impersonal constructions, or sentences that make general statements without a specified grammatical agent. The seven types of indefinite pronouns in English grammar are:

  • Singular Indefinite -one Pronouns
  • Singular Indefinite -body Pronouns
  • Singular Indefinite -thing Pronouns
  • Other Singular Indefinite Pronouns
  • Plural Indefinite Pronouns
  • Singular or Plural Indefinite Pronouns
  • Other Indefinite Pronouns

All seven types of indefinite pronouns can function as object pronouns. Only indefinite -thing pronouns, other singular indefinite pronouns, and plural indefinite pronouns function as object complements. For example:

  • You should tell no one. (direct object)
  • The little boy ate another. (direct object)
  • My brother sent someone a gift. (indirect object)
  • The judges have decided to award none the prize. (indirect object)
  • He should repaint the house anything. (object complement)
  • You can appoint me either. (object complement)
  • He must have sold the couch to somebody. (prepositional complement)
  • A good person always thinks of others first. (prepositional complement)

Interrogative Pronouns as Object Pronouns

Interrogative pronouns may function as object pronouns. Interrogative pronouns are question pronouns that are most often used in questions to gather more information about an unknown antecedent. The ten interrogative pronouns in English grammar are:

  • who1
  • whom
  • what
  • which
  • whose
  • whoever1
  • whomever
  • whatever
  • whichever
  • whosever

All ten interrogative pronouns can function as subject pronouns. For example:

  • What have you baked for the party? (direct object)
  • Who1 did you call last night? (direct object)
  • The boss appointed her what? (object complement)
  • The boss can appoint her whatever. (object complement)
  • Whom did you mail the package? (indirect object)
  • What are you giving a good scrubbing? (indirect object)
  • To whom did you give the million dollars? (prepositional complement)
  • You fell down and exposed yourself during what? (prepositional complement)

Relative Pronouns as Object Pronouns

Relative pronouns may function as object pronouns. Relative pronouns are a type of subordinating conjunction that introduce adjective, or relative, clauses. In addition to functioning as subordinators, relative pronouns also perform syntactic functions within adjective clauses. Of the nine relative pronouns in English grammar, the f

  • that
  • whom
  • which
  • Ø
  • who1

For example:

  • The book that you stole belongs to the library. (direct object)
  • The man whom you hit with your car owns the local ice cream store. (direct object)
  • You should never repeat that awful name, which I know you called me. (object complement)
  • I really hate the color Ø my husband painted the house. (object complement)
  • The stranger who1 my boss gave a job broke the copier. (indirect object)
  • The cookies are from those children, which brother sold jelly beans. (indirect object)
  • The raise for which you bargained will show up on your next paycheck. (prepositional complement)
  • The business Ø you sent the request to hates solicitations for money. (prepositional complement)

Object pronouns are pronouns that perform the grammatical functions of direct object, indirect object, object complement, and prepositional complement. Pronouns from all five categories of English pronouns can function as object pronouns within English grammar.

1. Prescriptive grammars proscribe the use of the subject pronouns who and whoever in object positions.

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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