I eat rice from a bowl with a spoon.

I is the subject. Rice is the object. What are things like bowl and spoon called?

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    In your example, rice is the object of the verb eat, bowl is the object of the preposition from, and spoon is the object of the preposition with. So, "object of a preposition." edit: and now Cerberus's answer has left my comment obsolete. Oh well. Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 23:18
  • Thank you for your comment; it was useful and appreciated. (Cerebrus's answer is a bit better though because my interpretation is that an "object of a preposition" need not always be a prepositional object in a sentence. For example, in "I drank the milk of a cow from a glass with a straw", "a cow" is the object of the preposition "of" but it is not the "prepositional object" of the verb "drink". The objects/prepositional-objects are "milk of a cow", "a glass", and "a straw".) Hope this helps.
    – semantax
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 23:17
  • @semantax: Right, there is no such thing as "the prepositional object of a verb": a prepositional object is the object of a preposition. The prepositional phrase, on the other hand, which includes both the preposition and its object, can be the argument, nay, even the complement of a verb—but not its object. Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 23:45
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    @semantax: Yes, that is exactly right: those are arguments of the verb drink. One is the object of the verb, the others are prepositional phrases. // One thing to consider is that some arguments are almost "compulsory", the verb strongly expects them to be there, like the direct object and the subject of a verb: those are called complements to the verb. Other arguments are less compulsory and are called satellites or adjuncts. Sometimes prepositional phrases (while never objects to the verb) can be complements, as in *I went to Rome*—but not the ones in your examples. Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 14:47
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    P.S. Other words than verbs can of course have arguments too. In I eat rice from a bowl, the phrase a bowl is the primary argument of the preposition from, its object. So you can have arguments nested within arguments, from a bowl being itself an argument of the verb drink. Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 14:50

1 Answer 1


A bowl and a spoon are prepositional objects, or the objects of prepositions.

  • Any reason why we can't call them 'indirect objects'? If it were Latin, in this instance 'bowl' and 'spoon' would both be ablatives.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 23:28
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    No, a distinction is drawn between "indirect" and "prepositional" objects. English sometimes allows a sentence be be rewritten such that a prepositional object becomes an indirect object or vice versa, but that does not make them the same. For example: "I sent him the letter." vs "I sent the letter to him." First one is indirect, second one is prepositional.
    – Nick2253
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 0:02
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    @WS2 What case a given word in a given phrase would be in Latin does not have any bearing on how it should be analysed in English. These two here are not indirect object (not in Latin either—indirect objects are in the dative case in Latin). If it were in Finnish, the bowl would be in the elative case, and the spoon in the instructive (or more commonly, the adessive) case, but that doesn't tell us anything about what function the words have in English, either. Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 1:25
  • This accepted is to the original version of the question. Please do look at the discussion in comments between me and @Cerebrus on the main question to get a comprehensive and excellent answer! (In brief, the term I was looking for is "arguments of a verb".)
    – semantax
    Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 20:06

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