A direct object is a noun or pronoun that directly receives or suffers the action of a verb. For example, in the sentence “Juanito takes out the garbage,” the garbage is the direct object of the verb, i.e. the noun that is being taken out (and Juanito is the subject of the verb, i.e. the noun that is doing the taking out). In English, the direct object always comes after the verb, and in Spanish this is almost always the case too.
- Juanito sacó la basura. (direct object = basura)
- Nosotros pagamos los impuestos. (direct object = impuestos)
Not all verbs are used with direct objects! Verbs that do an action to something or someone use a direct object, and are called transitive verbs. Verbs that merely denote an action don’t need a direct object and are called intransitive verbs.
- Ellos vivieron en Puerto Rico. (intransitive: “En Puerto Rico” is not the object of the action, it’s just a prepositional phrase saying where the action happened.)
- Yo corrí. (intransitive: I just ran.)
- Yo comencé el ensayo. (transitive: The essay is the direct object, it’s what I started.)
When speaking our native languages, we rarely notice this kind of grammatical category, but when learning a new language it helps a lot to be able to use grammatical terminology to define what kinds of words are used when. This will be very useful in the next section when we start exploring Spanish object pronouns.