This next snippet has three prepositional phrases.

Two of these we have highlighted as modifiers, and one we've highlighted as an object. What do you think the difference is?

(Tip: try removing each prepositional phrase from the sentence one at a time.)

In cold winters the Queen does revert to knitted woollen hose for warmth.

You probably found that you could take out the modifiers no problem. But what happened when you tried taking out the object"to knitted woollen hose"?

In cold winters the Queen does revert for warmth.

It sounds incomplete. Revert... how?

Some verbs require extra elements in order to make sense. In this snippet, the verb "revert" requires a thing to revert to.

Write your own sentence using the verb 'to revert'. Are you able to write a sentence that makes sense without using a preposition phrase starting with 'to'?

This is the main difference between objects and modifiers:

  • Objects are essential to the meaning of an event.
  • Modifiers are add-ons, giving more information and context, but not needed for an event to feel complete.

So how do we know if an element is "essential"?

We can start by looking at the verb.

For example, we now know that if something is "reverting", it has to be reverting "to something". So the verb 'to revert' requires a prepositional phrase starting with 'to' as a complement.

Here is a snippet with some more verbs that require complements:

In the morning, Corinne unwrapped her father’s bandage and found a soft red scab covering her wound.

We have 3 verbs in this snippet, and all 3 of them have an object, and all 3 objects are noun groups:

  • The verb 'to unwrap' has the thing being unwrapped.
  • The verb 'to find' has the thing being found.
  • The verb 'to cover' has the thing being covered.

Remove any of those objects and the sentence stops making sense. (On the flip side, you can remove the modifier, "in the morning", with no issue.)

Write a variation of that last snippet. Keep the verb groups the same and change the objects.

Verbs such as 'to unwrap', 'to find', or 'to cover' that require an object are called 'transitive verbs' because the action transitions to the thing it is being done to:

  • "Corinne unwrapped her father's bandage."
  • "Corinne found a soft red scab."
  • "A soft red scab covered the wound."

Verbs like 'to scowl' or 'to sigh' that don't have an object are called 'intransitive verbs'. They aren't 'done to' anything. They're just done:

  • "Mr Cartright sighed."
  • "Sajid scowled."

Here is another example that is a bit sneaky.

In this snippet, there are 2 objects. Can you tell what they are?

I put out my hand, palm down.

The verb 'to put' has 2 objects:

  • the 'thing' being put ("my hand"), and
  • the 'place' it is being put ("out").

Remove either of them and the sentence doesn't work.

We usually see adverb groups and prepositional phrases playing the role of modifiers, so it can be tricky to recognise when they are objects.

This is why it's useful to analyse clause components in terms of the real world categories ('thing', 'place', etc.) they represent rather than grammatical categories.

When we know a verb like 'to put' requires a 'place', we can look for the word group that is playing that role, whether that's an adverb group, a prepositional phrase, or something else.

Write your own sentence using the verb 'put', a 'thing' that is being put, and a 'place' where it is being put.

In the Verb Groups lesson we talked about the passive voice. We can use the concept of subjects, objects, and modifiers to help understand what is happening in passive voice.

For example, compare the subjects and objects in these two almost-identical snippets:

The original (active voice)

Corinne unwrapped her father's bandage.

The rewrite (passive voice)

Her father's bandage was unwrapped by Corinne.

Using the passive voice does two things:

  • The object moves into the subject slot—meaning the person or thing the action was happening to now becomes the focus of the sentence.
  • The original subject becomes a modifier—meaning we could remove it from the sentence and thus hide the person doing the action if we want to.

The passive voice only works when a verb has an object. Try turning "He ran" into a passive sentence. "Was run"? It doesn't make sense on its own.

There are a few tricks to passive voice when it comes to objects that aren't noun groups, but the ins and outs of it will not be gone into here. *wink*