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BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The sentences below prove that the infinitive form of verbs as well as the gerund form can be used in the object position of the sentence structure S-V-O.

I like toys. (toys = object)

I like to play. (to play = object)

I want to play. (to play = object)

I like playing. (playing = object)

In the following sentences, you can see that the direct objects are 'a message', 'a question', 'the answer' and 'something important' respectively.

And the indirect objects would be 'them', 'him', 'her' and 'my mum' respectively.

I sent them a message. OR I sent a message to them.

I asked him a question. OR I asked a question to him.

I told her the answer. OR I told the answer to her.

I told my mum something important. OR I told something important to my mum.

THE QUERY:

However, EXAMINE this sentence:

I TOLD MY MUM TO COME NOW.

Remembering that the infinitive "to come" is possible as a verb object, [ e.g. They want to come now. ]

and remembering the "I told my mum something important." example,

it seems that "something important" can be replaced by "to come now", so I assume that "my mum" is the indirect object and "to come now" is the direct object.

The QUESTION:

Is my analyzing soundly right in this regard - that the sentence structure terminology of "to come now" is DIRECT OBJECT, or am I mistaken and is this phrase classed as something else?

  • No, the infinitival clause is not direct object. "Tell" is a catenative verb and this is a complex catenative construction with "told" as head and the infinitival "to come now" as its catenative complement. "My mum" is direct object of the matrix verb, "told". The term 'catenative' comes for the Latin word for "chain", which is appropriate here since the verbs "told" and "come" form a chain with only the NP "my mum" intervening between them. – BillJ Jun 14 at 13:03
  • Many thanks. That was enlightening. How about the analysis of "I told my mum something important." Is 'my mum' an indirect object here, and 'something important' a direct object? – MarkB Jun 14 at 13:33
  • Yes, that's right. It's just the non-finite clauses that are treated as catenative complements rather than objects. – BillJ Jun 14 at 14:54

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