Object (grammar)

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An object (traditionally also called sentence completion ) is a complement in grammar that is required of the predicate and is (usually) closer to it than the subject . An object is also specially marked as a dependent part of a sentence, for example by a case assigned to the verb or by a fixed position in the sentence, as well as a semantic role . In addition to the categories noun or pronoun imported units (can also prepositions prepositional phrases ) serve as an object or element sets or satzwertige infinitives with to .

Reference to the term "object"

In the main, the term “object” refers to a grammatical function at the sentence level; H. on a phrase . These are then additions to the verb , which are consequently governed by the verb . In a broader sense, additions to other parts of speech are sometimes referred to as their objects, especially because in German the same case (accusative, dative) can be governed by these additions, i.e. H. with adjectives or prepositions. For such a generalization, however, the term “ addition” or “ complement” can be used instead. When referring to the addition of a preposition as its object, it should be noted that this state of affairs must be distinguished from the concept of the prepositional object . In the present article, the term object is understood in the narrower sense of a phrase; otherwise see the keywords adjective phrase , prepositional phrase and complement (syntax) .

Differentiation from the subject and between different types of objects

Nominative and congruence

The subject of a sentence can be in the German phrase than that determine the nominative - case bears and with which the finite verb correspond in their characteristics must ( congruence ). In this way, objects in German can be distinguished from the other additions to the verb that do not influence the verb form and which cannot carry a nominative. However, this delimitation does not apply to all languages, as congruence with an object or objects with a nominative case occur in some languages ​​(an example of a language that has both is Hindi ).

Proximity of the object to the verb

The order of the parts of the sentence is relatively free in German, so that z. B. Subject and objects can in principle occur in different sequences. Here, however, a sequence can usually be recognized as the basic order, since it does not trigger any special highlighting effects. In this respect the second sentence, which shows the object before the subject, differs from the first; the sequence in the first sentence has a neutral effect and is the basic sequence:

(Ich sah, dass …) zwei Männer eine Kiste in den Hof trugen.   (Subjekt – Objekt – Prädikat im Nebensatz)
(Es war klar, dass …) DIESE Kiste ZWEI Männer tragen mussten. (Objekt – Subjekt – Prädikat; Betonungseffekte)

In the unmarked word order, the object is closer to the verb than the subject. The shift sample shows even more clearly that verb and object are more closely related than verb and subject:

[Die Kiste in den Hof tragen] konnten nur zwei kräftige Männer.
NICHT: * [Nur zwei Männer in den Hof tragen] konnten die Kiste.

A connection such as [carrying the box] can be moved to the exclusion of the subject, so it forms a closer unit compared to the subject. Subject and verb, excluding the object, cannot be moved together.

(There are some verbs in German that are exceptions, in that the usual tests show a position of the accusative or dative before the nominative as the basic order; see subject (grammar) #Subjects, which are not hierarchically the highest complement of the verb .)

The terms "direct" and "indirect object"

A distinction between “direct” and “indirect” objects is common among objects. In German, this distinction is also essentially tied to the case: The term “indirect object” in German grammar is essentially congruent with the term “dative object”. The term “direct object” is used to summarize objects that either have the accusative or, as object clauses, have no case marking at all, see the section below.

Evidence of object sentences

A special case are subordinate clauses that can have the function of objects (as well as subjects), for example the so-called content clauses , which are introduced with that or, as indirect questions, with whether or another question word - these sentences do not have a case attribute, but they can be shown to be objects by replacing them with a pronoun:

„Ich sah einen großen Vogel“          (Akkusativobjekt bei ‚sehen‘)
„Ich sah, dass es geregnet hatte“     (dass-Satz als Objekt von ‚sehen‘)
„Ich habe es auch gesehen.“           (Pronomen als Objekt, evtl. als Ersetzung eines Satzes)
„Ich kann nicht sehen, ob es regnet.“ (indirekter Fragesatz als Objekt, ebenfalls durch es ersetzbar).

The same goes for certain infinitives with to :

„Der Oberförster versprach mir, sich zu rasieren.“
„Der Oberförster versprach es mir.“

The replacement with es shows that the infinitive group to shave is the direct object of the verb promise , the pronoun mir is next to it an indirect object (dative object).

For independent reasons, subordinate clauses as objects have their preferred position at the very end of the main clause (in the so-called post - field ; see below) .

Aspects of Importance

The term object denotes a grammatical function and as such cannot be directly defined via a specific meaning (just like subject ). In general, however, the connection can be established that the object has a semantic role that is more passive than the subject of the same sentence. Typical of the direct object is the role of “patient” or “subject”, ie the object that is affected or changed in the event.

In addition, objects can also contain location information (he left the room ), designate objects that only arise in the event (he composed two operas ) or that do not exist at all (I am missing something / he is looking for the philosopher's stone ) , as well as various other roles take over.

If two objects appear, the indirect object is the one that is less subject to the action (e.g. “recipient”). For example, in the sentence: “He sent his aunt a postcard”, a postcard is the accusative object because it changes its location in the event, a typical theme characteristic. In this respect, his aunt's second addition is less affected and receives the dative. (For more details, see the Semantic Role article ).

Forms of objects in German

The object of a verb can be noun phrases (noun groups) or pronouns , but also subordinate clauses or prepositional phrases . These are presented individually below.

Noun groups as objects

In the case of noun groups or noun phrases, the respective case plays an important role in the further classification. It should be noted that the case is a characteristic that assigns a verb to the entire noun group, even if it is only seen on individual words in that group.

Accusative object (direct object)

The direct object the question word corresponds to "who or what?" Accusative have a special status, with the concept of transitivity is related. In a narrower sense, only those verbs are called transitive verbs that have an accusative object with them, while verbs that only have a dative or another object with them are not called transitive in a narrower sense (there is but also a broader use of the term transitive , which also includes additions if they are marked differently than with the accusative).

Examples of accusative objects:

„Ich liebe dich.“
„Ich glaube dir das nicht.“
„Er gibt mir das Buch.“
„Ich gebe dem Haus einen neuen Anstrich.“
„Ich schreibe einen Brief.“
„Ich streiche eine Wand mit Farbe an.“

Transitive verbs that have been put into the passive with the auxiliary verb will no longer have an accusative object with them; They then have as subject the complement that would be a direct object in the active. This is where the accusative differs from the dative, which is retained in the passive with become :

Sie unterstützten ihn großzügig. – Er wurde großzügig unterstützt.
Sie halfen ihm großzügig. – Es wurde ihm großzügig geholfen.

For this reason, the accusative of transitive verbs is called a structural case , i.e. In other words, it is a case that does not only depend on the verb, but also includes general grammatical rules in its allocation (in contrast to the dative in help , which is a lexical case ). The (structural) accusative has this property in common with the nominative.

Dative object (indirect object)

The dative object answers the question “whom?” A dative object appears either as the only addition or as a second addition to an accusative. Examples:

„Ich schreibe dir eine Mail.“ – Frage: „Wem schreibe ich eine Mail?“
„Ich glaube dir, dass es so war.“ – Frage: „Wem glaube ich?“
„Ein Fremder half mir.“

Since there is a variant of the passive in German with auxiliary verbs like haben , which convert a dative object into a subject, the dative is also used as a structural case in such constructions:

„Wir überweisen Ihnen den Betrag.“
„Sie bekommen den Betrag überwiesen.“

There are uses of the dative in which it can be freely added ("free dative"); it is common to include these under the dative objects, although they are also classified as information rather than as additions.

„Kannst du mir den Müll runtertragen?“
         (= für mich)

Genitive object

There are a small number of verbs in German that require a complement in the genitive case; however, these forms are on the decline and can mostly only be found in sophisticated written language. With the exception of Valais and Walser German, there are no longer any genitive objects in the German dialects . In Austria, southern Germany and Switzerland (with the exception of Valais) genitive objects are also completely absent in standard everyday language. The general decline in the genitive in the German language affects genitive objects in particular; they are now often replaced by datives in written language.


Ich gedenke ihrer.Wessen gedenkt ihr?
Er beschuldigt mich des Diebstahls.
Wir bedürfen deiner Hilfe.
Herr erbarme dich unser.  (unser ist der Genitiv des Personalpronomens wir)
Er erinnerte sich dessen nicht.
Sie erfreut sich bester Gesundheit.

Other verbs after which genitive objects stand or can stand are, for example, to accept oneself, to reflect, to take possession of sb. rob, spare, dispose of, lacking, wait, boast ashamed to mock or sb. refer . Genitive objects can still be found more frequently in legal language . Here in some verbs with an accusative object of the person, the thing is in the genitive. These include sb. accuse, accuse, exempt, convict, suspect, as well as deny the outdated verbs (= accuse, accuse) and refuse [a thing] (= get rid of a thing, renounce it).

Genitive objects were much more common in older German. For example, they were also common with the following verbs: pay attention, desire, need, sb. to thank (still common: to thank sb. for asking ), enjoy, laugh, care (still common: care for calm ), forget (still in the flower name forget me not ) or wait . Especially from 16./17. In the 20th century, they were increasingly replaced by accusative or prepositional objects. Such obsolete genitive objects can occasionally still be found today, particularly in upscale literature.

These genitives are to be distinguished from genitives inside a clause, where they are not governed by the verb ; for example, in the sentence “I'm walking through the streets [of the city] ” the expression [of the city] is an attribute , since it only depends on the noun streets .

Prepositional object

The prepositional object is an object with a fixed preposition required by the verb (“She is waiting for him ”). In German there are almost 20 prepositions that can introduce such objects, mainly: an, auf, aus, für, gegen, in, mit, nach, über, um, von, vor und zu . Prepositional objects appear in two sentence construction plans in particular : as the only object of a verb ("He thinks of her ") and together with a direct object ("He informs her about the meeting "). The distinction between prepositional objects and prepositional adverbials is not always clear. Further information can be found in the article Adverbial Determination under Adverbial and Object .

Subordinate clauses as objects

The following types of subordinate clauses occur as direct objects of verbs:

Some subordinate clauses, on the other hand, correspond to a prepositional object without this being always directly visible, because the preposition can be omitted from the subordinate clause. The status of such an object sentence only becomes clear when it is replaced by a pronoun. Example:

„Er zwang seine Tochter (dazu), den Fabrikantensohn zu heiraten.“ = „Er zwang seine Tochter zu dieser Ehe.“

Object sentences have the syntactic peculiarity that they usually cannot be placed inside the sentence (i.e. in the middle field ), but rather follow at the end of the main clause, after the end position of the verb (right sentence bracket). This is where they differ from adverbial clauses, which do not necessarily have to be adjusted, and accusative objects, which never allow this end position.

Anna hatte nicht erwartet, diese Antwort zu bekommen.
= Anna hatte nicht erwartet, dass sie diese Antwort bekommen würde.

However not:

 * Anna hatte erwartet diese Antwort,

as well as often less acceptable

? Anna hatte, dass sie diese Antwort bekommen würde, nicht erwartet.

Objects in English

The classification of objects in English is fundamentally different from that in German. The main reason for this is the lack of typical case endings. Therefore, the German knows only three types of objects: the direct ( direct ), the indirect ( indirect ) and the prepositional ( prepositional ) object. If there is only one single object in a set, this object is automatically a direct object. When two objects of the "receiver" (always recipient ) an action the indirect object, the other object ( patient ) is declared the direct object. Examples:

(1) I gave her (recipient, indirektes Objekt) the apple (patient, direktes Objekt).
(2) I asked my mother (recipient) a question (patient).

An object that is introduced with the help of a preposition is collectively referred to as a prepositional object . The preposition is conditioned by the verb.


(1) They robbed him (direktes Objekt) of his ring (präpositionales Objekt).
(2) I protected him (direktes Objekt) from falling (präpositionales Objekt).

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Object  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. In the linked Wikipedia article on Hindi, however, the nominative is referred to as "rectus" due to these atypical properties. However, the term nominative is common in specialist literature; see. Miriam Butt: Theories of Case. Cambridge University Press, 2006
  2. Dudengrammatik (2009), p. 868f., Example shown modified from p. 869
  3. Duden. The grammar. 8th edition, 2009, p. 817.
  4. Duden. The grammar. 8th edition, 2009, p. 814.
  5. Christa Dürscheid : Syntax. Basics and theory. 4th edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2077, ISBN 3-525-26546-8 , p. 36.
  6. This it is a pure run-up to squatters and was only used in the example, so as not to suggest that the him to the subject parallel he would.
  7. Please note that there are non-structural types of the accusative, for example as an adverbial case .
  8. Duden. The grammar. 8th edition 2009. p. 819.
  9. Duden. The grammar. 8th edition 2009. p. 780.
  10. Duden.de: pay attention
  11. Grimm's dictionary s. v. "desire"
  12. Grimm's dictionary s. v. "to thank"
  13. Grimm's dictionary s. v. "enjoy"
  14. Duden.de: laugh
  15. Grimm's dictionary s. v. "laugh"
  16. Grimm's dictionary s. v. "care for"
  17. Grimm's dictionary s. v. "waiting"
  18. Dagobert Höllein: prepositional object vs. Adverbial: The semantic roles of prepositional objects . de Gruyter, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-11-062830-2 .
  19. ^ Eva Breindl: Prepositional Objects and Prepositional Object Sentences in German . Niemeyer, Tübingen 1989, ISBN 3-484-30220-8 .
  20. Duden. The grammar. 8th edition 2009, p. 1052 f.