10.1 Subject and object in English
Some verbs also need an object to make the meaning complete. The objects are highlighted in the following sentences.
Subject, verb and object
- George carried the shopping.
- Sheila brought cake.
- Sam found happiness.
Sentences of this ‘Subject – Verb – Object’ type are common in both English and Greek. They are, however, constructed according to quite different principles in each language. Let us consider English first.
Look at the sentence below and answer the questions that follow:
Cerberus chases Persephone
1. Identify the subject, verb and object.
Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.
- 1 = a
- 2 = c
- 3 = b
2. What tells you that ‘Cerberus’ is the subject of the sentence and not ‘Persephone’?
The order of the words. In English, the standard word order is a subject followed by a verb followed by an object (if the sentence has an object. Not all do). This is why English can be classified as a ‘Subject – Verb – Object’ language, or ‘SVO’ language for short.
3. What happens to the meaning of the sentence if you swap the words ‘Cerberus’ and ‘Persephone’?
Persephone becomes the subject and Cerberus the object, i.e. the roles of Cerberus and Persephone are reversed.
The use of word order to provide information about the role of nouns has one important consequence. It means that the order of words in English, unlike Greek, has to be fairly rigid if sentences are to be understood.