5.1 Subject and object in English
Certain verbs also demand 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 form are common in both English and Latin. They are, however, constructed according to quite different principles. Let us consider English first.
Look at the sentence below and answer the questions that follow:
Tiberius loves Livia
1. Identify the subject, verb and object.
Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.
- 1 = a
- 2 = b
- 3 = c
2. What tells you that Tiberius is the subject of the sentence and not Livia?
The order of the words. In English, the word order is usually a subject followed by a verb followed by an object (if the sentence has an object. Not all do). This is why English belongs to the category of ‘Subject – Verb – Object’ languages, or ‘SVO’ languages for short.
3. What happens to the meaning of the sentence if you swap the words Tiberius and Livia?
Livia becomes the subject and Tiberius the object, i.e. the roles of Tiberius and Livia are reversed.
This 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 Latin, has to be fairly rigid if sentences are to be understood.