Will a sentence sound too awkward or unacceptable if I use a transitive verb taking a direct object without this object.

If you ask me about advantages of speaking English as a second language at work, the first that comes to mind is that it gives [you] the ability to communicate more efficiently with foreign staff in your enterprise.

Are there any instances when it is possible to use a transitive verb without a direct object?

In my example, I am using the verb to give.

  • Are you asking if we can omit "you", right? I am not sure what transitive verb you are talking about, and what object, because you haven't pointed that out clearly in your question. If you want to know if you can omit "you", then I will say grammatically there is no problem with it, but it doesn't complete the meaning. The sentence then would say it would give the ability, but to who? That "who" would be missing. – Man_From_India Dec 19 '14 at 14:04
  • @Man_From_India I edited my question. – user11470 Dec 19 '14 at 14:06
  • Thank you. In that case I think my guess was right. And I have already provided an answer with my previous comment. Please go thorough that, and if you think it's still unclear please feel free to ask... – Man_From_India Dec 19 '14 at 14:09
  • 2
    In your sentence you is not the Direct Object but the Indirect Object - the Direct Object is the ability ... – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 19 '14 at 14:23
  • 1
    The Direct Object is the thing that you are handing over. The indirect object is the person that you are giving the object to. There are two constructions: I give the ball to Rob. (V + DO + IO). Or: I give Rob the ball. (V + IO + DO). – user6951 Dec 19 '14 at 15:14

In your example, "you" is not the direct object of "give", but the indirect object. The direct object is "the ability". In general, the direct object is the thing being acted on. An indirect object is usually someone or something receiving or benefitting from the action on the direct object. Like, "I gave the book to John." The verb is "gave". The direct object is "the book". This is the thing that is being given. The indirect object is "John". John is the person who is receiving the book.

All that said:

In many context there is no need for an indirect object because there is no one to "receive" anything. Like, "I ate my lunch." I didn't eat my lunch "to" someone, I just ate it.

It is often acceptable to let an indirect object be assumed or simply unspecified. Like, "Did you send grandma a Christmas card this year?" "Yes, I sent a pretty green one." In context, it is not necessary to say "I sent a pretty green one TO GRANDMA" because that can be readily assumed from the context.

Similarly, you can sometime leave out a direct object when it can be assumed. Like, "Would you like to make a donation to the Lonely Computer Geek Fund?" "Oh, I already gave." In this sort of construction, "gave" is a transitive verb, but we can omit the object because it can be inferred from context: it must be "a donation".

Some transitive verbs can also be used without an object when they are expressing a general action rather than a specific one. I suppose at this point you'd say the verb is now being used intransitively. Consider "to read". You can say, "I read World Magazine." That is, use it transitively to say that you read a specific document. Or you can say, "I like to read." In this case you're just talking about reading in general, not reading any one particular thing.

  • One more question: is it possible to always omit an indirect object, using a transitive verb in speech? I am curious whether any context in most cases allows us to do so? – user11470 Dec 19 '14 at 15:30
  • 1
    It's always GRAMMATICALLY possible. Whether the resulting sentence conveys the intended meaning is another question. If you wrote, "I sent a letter", the reader may be able to tell whom you sent it to from context, or it may not matter. Or the context may lead them to assume one person when really you meant another. Politicians and lawyers often count on such ambiguity. Like: "Yes, I sent a letter with this information", hoping everyone will assume he meant that he sent this letter to the investigating committee, when really he sent it to his public relations person. :-) – Jay Dec 19 '14 at 16:31

It's possible to use give with an implied indirect object, to mean something like "to bestow."

The music gives [the room] a nice ambience.

The magic potion gives [one; whoever takes it] extra strength.

You establish context with the first part of your sentence here:

If you ask me about the advantages of speaking English as a second language at work, the first that comes to mind

so we know that you are talking about something that could apply to anyone, and the listener should understand correctly.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy