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Is "him" a direct object in the sentence:

"They sent him to prison."?

Several online sources claim that direct object answers the question "What?"

But it seems that it is not always the case.

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A person can indeed be a direct object. –  virmaior Feb 4 at 9:47
    
You might enjoy our sister site: English Language Learners. –  Matt Эллен Feb 4 at 12:21

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Yes, a person can certainly be the direct object.

The question it answers is "what or whom?".

See also http://www.grammaruntied.com/blog/?p=671

The direct object is the noun that receives the action of the transitive verb.

And they give an example:

The police have arrested the man who committed the robberies.

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Online grammars are not always reliable. Often they have only half the problem, often they are imprecise, and sometimes there are errors. The best is to have a reliable grammar in book form. With online grammars alone it is difficult to get insight into grammar things. After a direct object you ask: Whom or what?

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Yes, of course. Example

we have sent him to receive a parcel/any kind of thing you may consider.

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Absolutely, but you'd need an article before the 'parcel' bit :) –  Leon Conrad Feb 4 at 10:10
    
@LeonConrad :) , thank you –  Sagar Panchal Feb 4 at 10:13

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