Can a noun of any type be used as a direct object?

  • 1
    Offhand I couldn't easily see how to construct a sentence with eternity as the "direct object", but Google Bard assures me it is in I cannot bear eternity in this place. I can't think of any more "awkward" types of noun that can't serve as a direct object. Did you have any specific nouns or types of noun in mind? Sep 9 at 12:04
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    Are you thinking of semantic types (feelings / vehicles / habitats ...) or some other classification? As FF says, I'd only think that semantic constraints could apply: some abstract nouns, perhaps. Though sentences like 'This gives rise to an absence of fixed rules and laws' show you'll have to try hard to find an example.... Although including pronouns in the noun word class, 'he', 'she' etc cannot occupy the DO slot. Sep 9 at 13:12
  • @EdwinAshworth Obviously subject pronouns ("he/she/they") cannot be a direct object, but object pronouns ("me/him/us/them") can be.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 9 at 13:18
  • @Andrew Leach There are signs that subject pronouns are becoming more widespread in situations where they are forced to do double duty ('You should avoid he who will not work for a living') ... and acceptability almost always follows usage. Sep 9 at 13:25
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    @AndrewLeach The asker could help by telling us what he means by a "type" of noun, what the possible "types" are to choose from, and whether these are syntactic types or semantic types. I also wonder why he's asking about nouns rather than about noun phrases (NPs) given that most grammars specify NPs not nouns for a verb's core arguments like its subject and objects. Most objects in English are more complex than a bare noun alone; see here for examples of objects of varying syntactic categories.
    – tchrist
    Sep 9 at 17:41

1 Answer 1


According to scribbr*, nouns can be classified into a number of different types. Most can be used as a direct object. This answer doesn't consider pronouns, because the question doesn't ask about pronouns.

  • common nouns

    I painted the fence.

  • proper nouns

    I like London.

  • countable nouns

    I recited facts.

  • uncountable (mass) nouns

    I recited poetry.

  • concrete nouns

    I folded the leaflet.

  • abstract nouns

    I appreciate beauty.

  • collective nouns

    I sacked the team.

  • possessive nouns

    I parked my car. I crashed my sister’s.

    (This might be debatable; is sister's here a pronoun, or functioning as a pronoun, and does that mean that a possessive noun on its own can't be a direct object?)

  • gerunds

    I enjoy whistling.

  • generic nouns

    I hate people.

  • attributive nouns

    These can't be used as a direct object because the noun phrase is the object — the main noun is necessary:

    I like carrot cake.

  • appositive nouns

    Again, these can't be used as a direct object because the noun phrase is the object — the main noun is necessary:

    I like my colleague Adam.

* Scribbr is simply used as a convenient list. No endorsement is intended.

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