In school, I was taught that action verbs have direct objects and linking verbs have predicate adjectives or nominatives; however, some verbs seem to use both simultaneously.

For example, in "I made it blue," made seems to have both a direct object it and a predicate adjective blue.

In the early stages of my adverb obsession, I suspected that "All men are created equal" should be "All men are created equally"1 mostly because it was not clear to me how equal as an adjective could be validly placed in that position. Thinking of it as "[unspecified subject] created all men equal", men seems to be the direct object. But then what to do with equal?

Is it possible for a sentence to have a direct object and predicate adjective, or is something else going on here that I'm not seeing?

1I have since realized that they express distinct ideas, the equality of the process of creation and the equality of the created men respectively.

  • Yes, it is. In I made it blue, "it" is direct object and the adjective "blue" is an objective predicative complement (it's predicated of the entity referred to by "it"). The verb "create" can take predicative complements (normally NPs, but the adjective “equal” can be considered a special case here), so your other example is also complex-transitive, with a resultative predicative complement. Thus in All men are created equal, “equal” is an adjectival predicative complement predicated of the subject “All men”. – BillJ Feb 3 '16 at 19:03

Your example I made it blue does not have a [subject]* predicate adjective. The word blue is an object complement [a predicate adjective of the object]. The sentence follows this pattern

Subject + verb + object + complement

Here are more examples of this pattern.

  • I painted the house brown.
  • I found the child silly.
  • He considers the idea ridiculous.

http://www.englishgrammar.org/verb-patterns-subject-verb-object-object-complement/ has more information about this pattern.

Similar to your comment All men are created equal should be All men are created equally, I used to think that Apple's slogan Think Different was ungrammatical. Then I heard an interview with Steve Jobs where he explained that he wanted different to be what we think, not how we think, such as think victory or think beauty.

*Update: I updated this answer based on BillJ's helpful comment. The updated parts are in brackets.

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  • Thank you. I didn't know about object complements. – anarchocurious Feb 3 '16 at 1:52
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    @Daniel But object complements are predicative complements. Predicative complements can be subjective (Ed seemed quite competent) or objective (I consider Ed quite competent . In both those examples, the adjectival PC "quite competent" denote a property that is predicated of the person referred to by "Ed". This is the basis for the term 'predicative complement' – BillJ Feb 3 '16 at 17:59
  • @BillJ Thanks for your comment. I updated my answer based on the information in your comment. – Daniel Feb 3 '16 at 19:51
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    @Daniel Until I read your post, I also thought, "Think different," was ungrammatical. Now I see the distinction, a different way in which one thinks vs. a different product of thought. These subtle differences are exactly why I refuse to succumb to the flat adverb craze. – anarchocurious Feb 4 '16 at 7:34
  • @Daniel Another example of this adverb-vs-adjective-as-the-object ambiguity that comes to mind is, "I'm working on eating healthier," vs., "I'm working on eating more healthily." The former refers to eating healthier things (e.g. choosing an apple over fries); the latter refers to eating in a healthier way (e.g. not biting one's tongue while chewing). – anarchocurious Feb 4 '16 at 7:34

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