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The direct object - Part I



Mouse-over Spanish text fragments in red to see English translation
The direct object is a basic ingredient of the verb that appears in a sentence to complement it and restrain its meaning. The direct object can only appear in transitive sentences, sentences that contain transitive verbs such as comer, pintar, or decir, amongst many more. The direct object is usually placed right after the transitive verb, or before or after when it switches to its pronoun form.

Semantic Value:

The direct object has two main semantic values.

- Its main use is to describe an object which the main action is focused on.

José limpia el coche.
Jose cleans the car.

Enviamos la carta el viernes pasado.
We sent the letter last Friday.

- In some cases, the object is produced by the action of the verb.

María pinta cuadros.
Maria paints paintings.

Bebo agua.
I drink water.

Words that can act as a direct object:

Nouns - if preceded by articles, these are part of the direct object.

Compré lápices.
I bought pencils.

Compré un lápiz.
I bought a pencil.

Noun phrase:

Me voy a poner la camisa de color rojo esta noche.
I am going to wear the red shirt tonight.

Verbs - a verb can act as a direct object of another verb.

¡Quiero comer ya! ¡Tengo hambre!
I want to eat now! I'm hungry!

Verb phrase:

Quiero ir a Argentina este año.
I want to go to Argentina this year.

There is two ways to identify the direct object in a sentence:

1.- Substitute the direct object for its pronoun form. This phenomenon is called "pronominalización". (we'll get into more details in our next lesson).

Carlos lavó su ropa = Carlos la lavó.
Carlos washed his clothes = Carlos washed them.

Sandra bebió un batido = Sandra lo bebió.
Sandra drank a milkshake = Sandra drank it.

2.- Turn an statement into a passive sentence. The direct object will become the subject of the passive sentence.

Carlos lavó su ropa = La ropa fue lavada por Carlos.
Carlos washed his clothes = The clothes were washed by Carlos.

Sandra bebió un batido = Un batido fue bebido por Sandra.
Sandra drank a milkshake = A milkshake was drunk by Sandra.