I called my pug Fufu: subject...object...object complement(Introducing English Grammar, p.93)

Yet if I say:

I give my pug some water.

then pug would be indirect object and some water would be direct object. At least that is what I believe.

So my question is how to distinguish these two situation?


The explanation given in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary makes the distinction clear. In this dictionary the pattern "VNN" is that for transitive verbs with a direct object (N) and an indirect one (N), the objects being noun phrases. the patterns "VN-N" and "VN-ADJ" are those of transitive verbs that have a direct object and a complement (which can be a noun phrase (-N) or an adjective (-ADJ).

The way to tell between "VNN" and "VN-N" is that in this latter case the noun phrase "-N" tells something about "N", the object of the verb.

In "I give my pug some water.", "water" tells you nothing about the pug. In "I call my pug Fufu.", "Fufu" tells you that the pug has a name and what that name is.

Examples from OALD

  • She considered herself lucky. VN-ADJ
  • They elected him president. VN-N
  • I sold Jim a car. VNN

(2) The structure S - V - IO - DO (I gave my dog a bone; I bought my wife a Lambo) can usually (though not always; see the exceptions, the different semantic readings, mentioned by Huddleston & Pullum below) be recast as

  • S - V - DO - to [recipient] (I gave a bone to my dog.)


  • S - V - DO - for [beneficiary] (I bought a Lambo for my wife.) (I called him a taxi.)

As Rodney D. Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum say: The indirect object is characteristically associated with the semantic role of recipient ... But it may have the role of beneficiary (the one for whom something is done), as in 'Do me a favour' or 'Call me a taxi'; and it may be interpreted in other ways, as seen from examples like 'This blunder cost us the match', or 'I envy you your good fortune'. [Nordquist; ThoughtCo]


On the other hand, (1)

An object complement is a noun, a pronoun, or an adjective that follows a direct object to rename it / add an attribute in a concise manner, or state/describe what it has become / been made / been named. The structure is S - V - DO -C[obj] ....

Verbs That Attract Object Complements

  • Verbs of making (to make, to create, to elect ...) and
  • naming (to name, to call, to dub ...) often attract an object complement. In the examples below, the object complements are in italics and come immediately after the direct objects.
    • He makes her happy.
    • They named her Heidi. (or They named her 'Heidi'.)

However, lots of other [semantic] types of verbs can take an object complement. For example:

  • They painted the kennel purple. (a resultative construction; the referent of the DO has been transformed)
  • They consider him stupid. (a depictive construction, describing the DO's referent's (considered) state)
  • They consider Liverpool champions.
  • They caught him napping.
  • I found the guard sleeping.
  • I declare this centre open.
  • I proclaim you King.
  • We consider fish spoiled once it smells like this.
  • I consider him a man now.
  • To obtain a man's opinion of you, make him mad. (Physician and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes)

Those verbs such as elect, appoint, make, choose, deem, assign, name, select, and designate, used to indicate the resulting condition / state / position of a person, place, or thing that the action of the verb occasions, are called factitive verbs.

An object complement is not always one word. It could be a phrase. For example:

  • I found the guard sleeping in the barn.
  • We all consider her unworthy of the position.
  • I proclaim you King Joachim of Crato. [GrammarMonster; heavily modifed]


The possibility of ambiguity remains when the object complement is a noun, though it is usually only encountered in schoolboy humour:

  • "Call me a taxi!"
  • "You're a taxi!"

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