Section 6: Clause Type V – Transitive Verb + Direct Object

A Type V clause appears similar to a Type IV clause, except now we are dealing with transitive verbs. Transitive verbs - unlike intransitive verbs - require a direct object - or a second nominal that completes the action of the verb.

Consider the following examples:

  1. He reported the outcome.
  2. She readied her supplies.
  3. She helped the other survivors

In sentences (1) and (2), the verb needs something to follow it in order to make sense, which is accomplished through the direct object (underlined in each example). We can think of the direct object as answering the what or whom of the action.

  1. He reported (what?) the outcome.
  2. She readied (what?) her supplies.
  3. She helped (whom?) the other survivors.

Do not confuse Type V clauses with Type IV clauses. The first, and most important, difference is the Main Verb: Type V has a transitive Main Verb, while Type IV has a BE/linking Main Verb. Still, they can be similar as the nominal complement also answers what or whom; however, the nominal complement—i.e. the direct object—in a Type V clause does not refer back to the subject. Compare the following:

  1. She became an expert survivalist.
  2. She knows survival skills.

The difference between the two sentences is (1) is a Type IV clause—the complement renames the subject (she and expert survivalist are synonymous). Sentence (2) is a Type V clause because the second noun phrase does not refer back to the subject. She is aware of the survival skills, but they do not define her. There is one exception where the direct object refers back to the subject, and that is with reflexive or reciprocal pronouns:

  1. They defended each other from the onslaught.
  2. He proved himself.

In the above examples, the direct object and the subject technically refer to the same thing; however, since the Main Verb is transitive, we treat the reflexive or reciprocal pronouns as "different" from the subject. Again, the Main Verbis key: BE/Linking Main Verb followed by a nominal in the predicate is a Type IV; Transitive Main Verb followed by a nominal in the predicate is a Type V.

Type V Variation: Indirect Objects

Sometimes we find a Type V clause with three nominals that each have a different referent. In such situations, we have the subject, the direct object, and an indirect object—the recipient of the direct object:

  1. She gave the organization the plans.
  2. He told his troops the truth.
  3. He gave himself the benefit of the doubt.

Determining which noun phrase is the direct object and which is the indirect object can be tricky; however, the indirect object typically precedes the direct object and refers to a person or an entity that is to receive the direct object.

  1. She gave the organization the plans.
  2. He told his troops the truth.
  3. He gave himself the benefit of the doubt.

In the examples, the direct object is underlined and the indirect object is in italics. In sentence (1), she transfers plans (direct object) to the organization (indirect object). In sentence (2), he told the truth (direct object) to his troops (indirect object). In sentence (3), he gave the benefit of the doubt (direct object) to himself. Notice how we can typically determine the indirect object by asking “to whom.” And, in most cases, the indirect object will immediately precede the direct object, so if you have two nominals in a row following a transitive verb, suspect that one is an indirect object.

Type V Variation: Object Complements

With Type V clauses, we sometimes have nominals or adjectivals in the predicate that complement the direct object by describing or renaming it. We call these object complements.

  1. He considers himself an expert.
  2. She made surviving easy.

In both sentences, the direct object is underlined and the object complement is in italics. In sentence (1), we have the nominal phrase expert that follows himself. While you may be quick to consider one of these to be a direct object and the other an indirect object, we need to ask a few basic questions: is there an action that can be received? Can we ask “who” is receiving the action? In both cases, the answer is no. But if you notice, himself and expert have the same referent: they refer to each other. As for sentence (2), we have a nominal and an adjective in the predicate. Compared to dealing with two nominals, it is easier to see the connection between the two. First, we know that since we have a Type V clause, surviving must be a gerund and functioning as the direct object (since we have to have something to complete the action). Furthermore, easy is an adjective that modifies surviving—it describes surviving. Thus, we can determine that easy acts in the capacity of an object complement.

Type V Variation: Nonfinite Verb Phrases

Often, it is not always as simple as identifying a noun or an adjective to lock down as the direct object, or nominal subject complement. Sometimes we deal with nonfinite verb phrases that occupy nominal slots:

  1. She hopes to see the end of this. (Type V) - She hopes (something)
  2. They are surviving. (Type I) - MVP = BE + [-ing] + survive
  3. He seems to be fine. (Type IV) - He seems (something)

As we discussed previously, infinitive phrases that follow transitive Main Verbs are most often nominal. Similarly, if participles follow transitive verbs, they will also function nominally as the direct object, but be especially careful when participles follow a BE verb, because most often the BE verb is an auxiliary and the participle is the Main Verb, not a complement.

If we can replace the questionable phrase with “something,” we can normally argue that the phrase is acting as a nominal. While we can’t do this same process with adjectival phrases, we can try substituting the phrase with a single adjective. If we can do this, then we can assume that phrase is occupying an adjectival slot.

When in doubt, use a substition test as a starting point.