# 14  How can direct objects be taught?

"Direct object" labels a grammatical category established by ancient Greek and Roman grammarians as they observed the properties of "actions."

Actions are performed by the "doer" of the action, labeled by the grammatical category "subject."  The "subject" could be a person (John came), an animal (The lion roared), a thing (The pencil fell), or an abstraction (Liberty requires responsibility). Grammarians observed long ago that certain actions can be performed by a doer: John comes every day in the mornings. Other actions must be performed by a doer and must include something else to be performed. For example: to throw. A doer or subject must throw and s(he) must throw something for the action to take place. If nothing is thrown, then the action just does not occur. One cannot "throw" nothing!

The grammatical category "direct object" labels this "something" or "someone" that must be involved in the action for the action to take place. Thus:

A subject must perform an action onto something/someone for the action to occur--

 

Mary writes a letter.
Betty eats some meat.
The criminal killed his victim.

In Spanish the pattern is identical to English:

María escribe una carta.
Beti come   un poco de carne.
El criminal asesinó   a su víctima.

 

Both, English and Spanish explicitly name the direct object --as shown above-- or can use direct object pronouns to refer to the already named direct object.

Mary writes it.
Betty eats it.
The criminal killed   him (or her).

 

María va a escribir las cartas.
María va a escribirlas.  

 

Beti está comiendo la carne.
Beti está comiéndola.  

 

El criminal asesinó a los niños.
El criminal los asesinó.  

 

El criminal asesinó a nuestro amigo.
El criminal lo asesinó.  

Teaching direct objects, then, requires that students observe and perceive the thousands of actions that require a "doer" and a "done-to," or direct object, for the action to take place.

English requires that the "done-to" or direct object, once named, be referred to by a pronoun indicating whether the direct object is a thing (or animal), "it," or a person: "him," "her," "them." In the plural, things, animals or persons are labeled "them."

Spanish requires that the "done-to" or direct object, once named, be referred to by the article ONLY. The noun labeling the person or thing is dropped.

 

 


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9. Transition: Introduction to English Reading

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