Subjects are the primary focus of the predicate in a sentence, but predicates containing transitive verbs necessarily involve more than one entity. In addition to a subject, a transitive verb requires an object. (In fact, it is worth noting that an imperative sentence containing a transitive verb requires an object, although the subject is absent).
There are three types of object:
A direct object can be described as a second ‘player’ or ‘actor’ involved in the state of affairs and somehow undergoes the action described by the predicate. Look at the examples below:
Alan is studying.
Alan studeert Nederlands.
Alan studies Dutch.
In the first sentence, we have Alan as subject and studeert as the predicate. In the second sentence a third element occurs, Nederlands, the direct object. (This example also makes clear that many verbs can be used both transitively and instransitively.)
You can find the direct object by asking the question: ‘What [verb] [subject]?’ In the case of the example, you can ask the question ‘What does Alan study?’ The answer is the object of the subject’s action, namely ‘Dutch’.
A direct object can also be a noun group:
Ik studeer Nederlands en bedrijfskunde.
I study Dutch and business studies.
Sara houdt van hartige pannenkoeken met kaas.
Sara likes savoury pancakes with cheese.
Personal pronouns also have direct object forms, for example haar in the sentence below:
Alan belt Simone, want hij wil haar uitnodigen voor zijn feest.
Alan rings Simone, because he wants to invite her for his party.
Some transitive verbs require a third ‘actor’ in addition to a subject and a direct object, an indirect object. The indirect object can be described as the beneficiary of the activity described by the predicate. For example:
Sara geeft Kenny een boek.
Sara gives Kenny a book.
You can find the indirect object by asking the question: ‘To/For whom……?’ In the case of the example, you can ask the question ‘To whom does Sara give the book?’ The answer is the indirect object of the subject’s action, namely ‘Kenny’.
An indirect object can also be a noun group:
Ik stuur alle mensen in de faculteit een e-mail.
I send all people in the faculty an e-mail.
The object forms of personal pronouns can also be used as indirect object, for example haar in the sentence below:
Kenny heeft Sara uitgenodigd om bij hem te eten. Hij geeft haar een pannenkoek.
Kenny has invited Sara to eat at his place. He gives her a pancake.
Whenever an object is compulsorily accompanied by a preposition, it is called a prepositional object. This is the case with phrasal verbs where the main verb and the preposition form a fixed phrase such as kijken naar, meebrengen voor, houden van, praten met. Depending on the specific verb, a prepositional object can be interpreted as a direct object or an indirect object. For example:
Vanavond kijken we om acht uur naar het nieuws.
Tonight we watch the news at 8 o’clock.
Ik heb een fles wijn voor je meegebracht.
I brought a bottle of wine for you.
In the first example the prepositional object is naar het nieuws (preposition naar) and the prepositional object can be considered a direct object: ‘ What do we watch at 8 o’clock?’ In the second example voor je is the prepositional object. Je can be seen as an indirect object: ‘For whom did I bring the wine?’ Note, however, that the phrase om acht uur is not a prepositional object but an adverbial adjunct (of time). There is a test for this: if a phrase with a preposition can be left out without making the sentence ungrammatical, it is an adverbial adjunct. If it cannot be left out, it is a prepositional object:
Vanavond kijken we naar het nieuws.
*Vanavond kijken we om acht uur.
The first sentence is grammatical; the second sentence is not: it needs a prepositional object.
An indirect object can also be a noun group:
Vanavond kijken we naar het nieuws van acht uur.
Tonight we watch the 8 o’clock news.
The prepositional object may be a pronominal adverb, which is an adverb of place with the function of a pronoun. This can be illustrated by means of two verbs with the same meaning, one of which a transitive verb, the other a phrasal verb, e.g. bespreken (‘discuss’) and praten over (‘talk about’, i.e. ‘discuss’). Consider the following two versions of a comment that could be made in a popular radio phone-in programme:
Gisteren hebben we het probleem van de werkloosheid al besproken, dus dat bespreken we vandaag niet.
Gisteren hebben we al over het probleem van de werkloosheid gepraat, dus daarover praten we vandaag niet.
We discussed the problem of unemployment yesterday, so we will not discuss it today.
The first example contains the verb bespreken and the demonstrative pronoun dat to refer to het probleem van de werkloosheid. The second example contains the phrasal verb praten over and the demonstrative pronominal adverb daarover to refer back to het probleem van de werkloosheid.