The 1972 film “The Godfather” is one of the most famous movies ever made. It tells the story of a make-believe organized crime family: the Corleone family. Its leader is Don Corleone, played by Marlon Brando. In the film, he says the following line:
I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse.
Today on Everyday Grammar, we will examine this threatening statement. Specifically, we will look at verbs with two objects.
Yes, even the fictional head of an organized crime family can teach you about English grammar!
Subjects, Verbs, and Objects
First, we begin the program with a few definitions. Most sentences in English have a subject and a verb. For example, in the sentence "The man laughed," the subject is the term "the man" and the verb is the word "laughed."
Some sentences have subjects, verbs, and objects. The subjects and objects are usually nouns or pronouns.
Consider the sentence "She kicked the ball." The subject is the pronoun "she," and the object is "the ball." In this case, we refer to the ball as the direct object because it is receiving the action of the verb kick.
It is easy to find examples of these kinds of sentences in American movies. Consider the following exchange from the film “A Few Good Men.”
Colonel Nathan Jessep: You want answers?!
Lieutenant Dan Kaffee: I want the truth!
Colonel Jessep: You can't handle the truth!
Each of the sentences that you heard followed the same verb + object pattern. Notice that in each sentence, the verb has an object – what we call the direct object.
Now, let's look at sentences with two objects.
Verbs with Two Objects
Pattern #1 Verb + Indirect Object + Direct Object
Many verbs have two objects – a direct object and an indirect object.
Many of the most common verbs in English can be found with two objects. Examples include the verbs make, bring, and take.
Think back to Don Corleone's statement.
I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse.
"I’m gonna" is one way of saying "I will." The verb "make" has two objects: the direct object, "an offer that he can't refuse," and the indirect object, "him."
The "he can't refuse" part of the sentence is a relative clause. It is modifying, or changing the meaning, of the noun "an offer." We discussed relative clauses in an earlier Everyday Grammar story.
Remember, the direct object is the thing affected by the action of the verb, and the indirect object shows the person who received the action.
The basic grammatical pattern we have discussed is:
Verb + Indirect Object + Direct Object
Other examples might include simple statements, such as:
He made me a promise.
Here, the verb is "made," the indirect object is "me," and the direct object is "a promise."
Pattern #2 Verb + Direct Object + to/for + Indirect Object
In the sentences that we just talked about, the indirect object comes first. But sometimes the indirect object comes second. When this happens, English speakers generally use the words to or for before the indirect object.
Listen to this example:
I sent money to my family.
The direct object is "money," then comes the word "to," then the indirect object, "my family."
The basic pattern is this:
Verb + Direct Object + to/for + Indirect Object
Think back to our sentence from The Godfather: "I will make him an offer that he can't refuse."
If we changed the positions of the objects, the sentence would not really work.
Don Corleone could have said, "I will make an offer to him."
This statement, however, carries a different style. It doesn't sound nearly as threatening, for one.
Today, we showed you different patterns for how speakers use verbs with two objects. Specifically, we studied two ways in which speakers use sentences that have two objects.
You can begin practicing by finding sentences that have two objects – a direct object and an indirect object. Ask yourself where the objects appear in the sentence, and be sure to make note of your findings. With time, and with practice, you will begin to use sentences with two objects with no trouble at all.
And that's Everyday Grammar.
I'm John Russell.
And I'm Ashley Thompson
John Russell wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
object – n. grammar : a noun, noun phrase, or pronoun that receives the action of a verb or completes the meaning of a preposition
pronoun – n. a word that is used in place of nouns or noun phrases and can be easily understood by other people
refer – v. to direct attention to; to have a relation or connection
handle – v. [+ object] : to deal with (a person, situation, etc.) successfully
pattern – n. the regular and repeated way in which something happens or is done
relative clause – n. a group of words with a subject and verb that starts with a relative pronoun, such as that, which, where, or when
style – n. an way of doing things; an unusual form or appearance of something
practice – v. to carry out or perform; to work repeatedly at something
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.