She kisses them good night and puts them to bed.

Is "good night" a direct object of "kisses"?

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    It's adverbial and describes how she kissed them, them being the "objects" being kissed. – Jim Jan 27 '14 at 2:16
  • @Jim So do you mean that "good night" is an adverbial modifying "kisses", serving as a means of adverbial? – user48070 Jan 27 '14 at 2:28
  • @Jim Think of kiss as "giving a kiss", (remember the confusion of kisses and thimbles in Peter Pan?) and them will look more like an Indirect Object. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 27 '14 at 2:46
  • @StoneyB- I suppose it can work that way too, but I still think good night describes how they were kissed. She kisses them passionately and puts them to bed may seem a little incongruous but not ungrammatical. Quickly fits nicely there too. – Jim Jan 27 '14 at 3:29
  • @Jim: Nah. I think good night essentially describes the type of kisses - which you could more explicitly paraphrase as "She gives them good night kisses..." – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 27 '14 at 5:37

If you have to put this in traditional categories you will probably do best by understanding this particular use of kiss as ditransitive in the same way as give or grant or wish, with a Direct Object and an Indirect Object:

  • She gave IOthem DOcookies.
  • She gave IOthem DOa hug.
  • She granted IOthem DOpermission.
  • She wished IOthem DOa Merry Christmas.
  • She kissed IOthem DOgood night.

But this seems odd—the same them would be the Direct Object if she just kissed them.

It's the same sort of problem you have with active vs passive voice: the Direct Object or Indirect Object of an active sentence becomes the Subject of the sentence's passive version.

So this is one of those places where traditional grammar breaks down. If you think of the syntactic roles using terms from functional grammar—Agent instead of Subject, Patient instead of Direct Object, and Beneficiary instead of Indirect Object—this sort of oddity doesn't arise.

  • She gave Benthem Ptcookies.
  • She gave Benthem Pta hug.
  • She granted Benthem Ptpermission.
  • She wished Benthem Pta Merry Christmas.
  • She kissed Benthem Ptgood night. ... AND
  • She gave Benthem Ptkisses.

Of course this now has a different oddity: we've changed a verb into a noun which acts as the Patient of another verb. But that happens in English all the time:

  • He Verbdecided to buy the car.
  • He made a Ptdecision to buy the car.
| improve this answer | |
  • What do"agent""patient"and"beneficiary" mean in functional grammar. I have never parsed the sentence in that way. Would you explain them in a specific way,please? – user48070 Jan 27 '14 at 2:45
  • @user48070 I'll be happy to. But I'm just a beginner in FG, so I may be leaving out a lot of subtleties. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 27 '14 at 2:47
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    If you are forced to put this in traditional categories by a teacher, don't pay that teacher; find a better one. Nobody will ever pay you a penny to put anything in traditional categories, and knowing how to do it to your teacher's satisfaction will never do anything for your education or your English proficiency. – John Lawler Jan 27 '14 at 3:13
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    @John Lawler: I suppose by "traditional categories" you mean "syntactic" categories like direct/indirect object. But it seems to me that (beginner or not) StoneyB has shown that more "semantically-oriented" categories (agent/patient) work very well here. We don't want to throw out the baby with the bathwater - categorisation is "a good thing", so long as you don't end up trying to force square thinking into round pigeonholes. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 27 '14 at 5:32
  • You need them all. "Traditional categories" includes Parts of Speech, "proper" constructions, and the use of perfect, subjunctive, progressive and passive "tenses". They're all crap. Grammatical categories (dependencies) are necessary, and so are constituents. DO and IO aren't semantic; they frequently do represent transfer with bitransitive verbs, but source-trajector-goal is a frame governed by the verb. – John Lawler Jan 28 '14 at 8:39

Is it the sentence constituent of kiss than good night?

The verb kiss is used here with object and complement.

Kiss (with object and complement) - she kissed the children goodnight.

Note that the word goodnight mentioned there is a single word.

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  • Perhaps you mistyped that as complement. According to that dictionary, the verb kiss is used in that sentence with an object (the children) and a complement (goodnight). – Damkerng T. Jan 27 '14 at 9:49
  • @DamkerngT. Corrected. Though down there it was correct! Thanks – Maulik V Jan 27 '14 at 9:50
  • Complement seems fine to me, though it's not very specific about the role played by good night. – snailplane Jan 27 '14 at 10:45
  • @snailplane I have not previously encountered this catch-all use of complement, which appears to reduce it to "argument which doesn't fit neatly into a traditional category". Most folks I've read treat complement as a supercategory which includes direct and indirect objects--and sometimes subjects. ODO seems to me to be muddying waters which are already too opaque. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 27 '14 at 23:40

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