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    indonesia's Avatar
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    Default Please help explain my transitive/intransitive verb query.

    Hello,
    I'm hoping your can help me with a query I have involving the direct object, transitive and intransitive verbs. The grammar book I have gives the following examples which I find a little confusing.
    A transitive verb has a direct object.
    E.g. Jake swims a lap.
    'swims' being the transitive verb and 'a lap' being the direct object.
    Then it goes on to say, an intransitive verb does not have a direct object, using the example: Jake swims in the pool.
    'swims' is now intransitive because it is followed by a prepositional phrase 'in the pool'.
    My question is why isn't this prepositional phrase classified as the direct object?

  2. #2
    csheywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please help explain my transitive/intransitive verb query.

    Quote Originally Posted by indonesia View Post
    Hello,
    I'm hoping your can help me with a query I have involving the direct object, transitive and intransitive verbs. The grammar book I have gives the following examples which I find a little confusing.
    A transitive verb has a direct object.
    E.g. Jake swims a lap.
    'swims' being the transitive verb and 'a lap' being the direct object.
    Then it goes on to say, an intransitive verb does not have a direct object, using the example: Jake swims in the pool.
    'swims' is now intransitive because it is followed by a prepositional phrase 'in the pool'.
    My question is why isn't this prepositional phrase classified as the direct object?
    I wonder if some of the confusion is due to the fact that some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive (not at the same time)? 'swim' is an example. If I take away the prepositional phrase I have
    'Jake swims.'
    This is still correct. It's a transitional verb. The prepositional phrase just describes where, in this case.

    An intransitive verb requires an object to be grammatically correct. If I use another example
    'The construction team raised the bridge.'
    I cannot omit 'the bridge' - I must use a word. Even if I use a prepositional phrase
    'The construction team raised in the night.'
    I still have an incomplete sentence. The prepositional phrase is not in place of an object, it doesn't 'do the same job as a direct object'.

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    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Please help explain my transitive/intransitive verb query.

    Certainly it is possible for a verb to be both transitive and intransitive; "eat" is a good example.

    In the case of "swim a lap", I think this may be a case of what is traditionally called a "cognate object" - the direct object is simply a specification or measurement of the action inherent in the verb. A number of normally intransitive activity verbs have this possibility. Other examples: to dance a polka, to run a mile.

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    indonesia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please help explain my transitive/intransitive verb query.

    Thanks for all the help you guys. Where the confusion arose was when I was viewing this page that I have pasted below.

    The Grammatical Direct Object in English: Nouns, Prepositions, Verbs, and Noun Clauses as Direct Objects | Suite101.com

    In there it states that a prepositional phrase can be used as the direct object and gives an example such as:
    My mum cleaned under the bed.
    Why is 'under the bed' classed as a direct object but in my original query 'in the pool' is not classed in the same way?

    Thanks again, any feedback would be most grateful.

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    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Please help explain my transitive/intransitive verb query.

    According to the writer you have linked to, "under the bed" can answer the question "what" as well as the question "where". (I am not sure I am convinced of this, by the way, but will think more about it.) Whereas in "swim in the pool", the PP can presumably only answer the question "where".

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    indonesia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please help explain my transitive/intransitive verb query.

    Am I correct in saying then, that in order for the prepositional phrase to be classed as the direct object you should be able to ask a 'where' and 'what' question after the main verb? And receive the same answer to both?

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    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Please help explain my transitive/intransitive verb query.

    This seems to be a correct understanding of what the writer is saying.

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    Default Re: Please help explain my transitive/intransitive verb query.

    Quote Originally Posted by indonesia View Post
    Hello,
    I'm hoping your can help me with a query I have involving the direct object, transitive and intransitive verbs. The grammar book I have gives the following examples which I find a little confusing.
    A transitive verb has a direct object.
    E.g. Jake swims a lap.
    'swims' being the transitive verb and 'a lap' being the direct object.
    Then it goes on to say, an intransitive verb does not have a direct object, using the example: Jake swims in the pool.
    'swims' is now intransitive because it is followed by a prepositional phrase 'in the pool'.
    My question is why isn't this prepositional phrase classified as the direct object?
    It is a prepositional object. We can't say that "in the pool" receives the action of "swimming" as we can say "a lap" receives the action of swimming.

    Jake swims in the pool - "In the pool" is the place where Jake swims. It does not receive an action directly or indirectly. It's not an object in any way. In this sentence it is a place or a location. Also, "it's not possible to "swim a pool". It is possible to "swim a lap", however.

    Jake walked around the pool. - Just as "around the pool" is not an object, "in the pool' is not an object. "Around the pool" indicates where and how Jake walked. Again, it's not possible to "walk a pool". It is possible to "walk a dog", however.

    Finally, some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive, while other verbs are always one or the other. The verb "swim" can be both. There's no object in "Jake is swimming", just as there is no object in "Jake is swimming in the pool".

    Here's a comparison.

    Jan poured a glass of water for Jim.

    A glass of water receives the action of pouring. Jim is a prepositional object in "for Jim".

    Now, here's another way to say it.

    Jan poured Jim a glass of water.

    Here, we can say that Jim is the indirect object of "pour", just as we can say that "Jim" is the indirect object in "Jan gave Jim a glass of water". And there's no prepositional phrase in either of these sentences, which means we cannot say there is a prepositional object, of course.

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    konungursvia's Avatar
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    Default Re: Please help explain my transitive/intransitive verb query.

    One or two of you are losing sight of the fact that a phrase is a linguistic utterance, and an actual thing is the object, represented by a noun in speech or writing. A phrase would not actually be the object. Even the noun is deemed to be the object only by virtue of a supposed one-to-one relationship with the actual external object in question. Hope this helps.

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    Default Re: Please help explain my transitive/intransitive verb query.

    Quote Originally Posted by indonesia View Post
    Thanks for all the help you guys. Where the confusion arose was when I was viewing this page that I have pasted below.

    The Grammatical Direct Object in English: Nouns, Prepositions, Verbs, and Noun Clauses as Direct Objects | Suite101.com

    In there it states that a prepositional phrase can be used as the direct object and gives an example such as:
    My mum cleaned under the bed.
    Why is 'under the bed' classed as a direct object but in my original query 'in the pool' is not classed in the same way?

    Thanks again, any feedback would be most grateful.
    It has to do with how we perceive the meaning of the phrase. I find it something interesting to consider, but I do not think that ESL students would want to take such a consideration as far as I have here.

    I think that grammar permits us to say things based on our understanding or how we perceive things in either a physical way or an abstract way.

    In the sentence "My mum cleaned under the bed", we understand that "under the bed" is a surface, most likely the floor. This is an interesting way to see it. I wouldn't have thought of viewing "under the bed" as an object.

    Jake swam in the pool - The prepositional phrase "in the pool" is a physical space or place, just as "under the bed is". "In the pool" cannot receive the action of "swimming", but "under the bed" can receive the action of cleaning. When we say "clean under the bed" we know that "under the bed" - the floor - is affected in some way; it receives the action of cleaning. When we say "swim in the pool", "in the pool" - the space in the pool - is not affected in anyway.

    Clean under the bed - Cause the area we think of as "under the bed" to be clean.

    Swim in the pool - The action of "swimming" does not cause the area we understand as "in the pool" to be affected any way.

    Swim two laps. - Cause the length we understand as "two laps" to be traversed by a swimmer.

    Swim the length of the pool. - Cause the area we understand as "the length of the pool" to be traversed by swimming from one end of the pool to the other. One can swim the length, but one can't swim the pool.

    I don't think there are many examples like "under the bed", which means "the floor". However, it's worth noting that "in the pool" is a place, and one cannot "swim a place".

    Swim the English channel. - The English channel is a length. One can cause the English channel to be traversed by swimmng from where it begins to where it ends. However, we don't usually say "swim the pool" because we don't see the pool as being a challenging length. The pool is a place, just as "in the pool" is a place. It's worth noting, however, that we can find the phrase "swim the pool" by doing a search for it in Google. It's not used frequently, but it is used, which once again goes to show that language is not very predictable.

    If the word combination "swim the pool" comes up as phrase in Google, we understand clearly one can swim a length - the pool length - the pool's length -the length of the pool. However, interestingly enough, here are two examples in which a speaker is using "pool" as a direct object without deferring to "length" in a specific way. The speaker in these sentences understands the pool itself to be a length. I wouldn't say this is very typical language, in my opinion.

    San Antonio Swim Academy
    He is able to swim the pool in deep water with a couple of breathes and I think with continued help from Mr. Dean he will continue to improve. ...
    www.sanantonioswimacademy.com/ - Cached - Similar

    Tenaya Canyon Trip Report, Olmsted Point Approach 9/8/08
    1 post - 1 author - Last post: Sep 11, 2008
    One can swim the pool or climb up the easy ramp on the left, up and over a cliff and then drop back down. More boulder hopping brings you ...
    www.tuolumnemeadows.org/index.php?topic=209.0 - Cached - Similar
    Last edited by PROESL; 13-Aug-2009 at 14:38.

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