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Complex Object.doc
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Complex object

Complex Object is called so because it consists of two elements:

a) a noun or a pronoun in the objective case and

b) either an infinitive or Participle I or II.

e.g. Aunt Polly wanted Tom to whitewash the fence. (Tom – noun; to whitewash – infinitive)

Heck saw him whitewashing the fence. (him - pronoun in the objective case; whitewashing – Participle I)

Complex Object is used only after some definite verbs. They can be grouped in the following way:

  1. Verbs of sense perception

to see to hear to feel to sense to watch to observe to notice

e.g. Stanley saw Tom walking downstairs. (action in progress)

Stanley saw Tom walk downstairs. (completed action)

We watched the books being carried downstairs. (action in progress)

We watched the books carried downstairs. (completed action)


  • Only bare infinitive is used after these verbs.

e.g. Petra heard her neighbours quarrel in the garden.

  • Infinitive is used to show a completed action.

e.g. I noticed Jane water the flowers.

  • Participle I is used to show an action is progress.

e.g. Dina felt Simon touching her hand.

  • Participle II is used to express a completed action in the Passive Voice.

e.g. I noticed the flowers watered.

  • If the verbs to see, to feel, to sense are used in the meaning to realize, Complex Object is not used. A subordinate clause is used instead,

e.g. Stanley saw that Tom did not understand anything.

  • If the verb to hear is used in the meaning to learn, Complex Object is not used. A subordinate clause is used instead,

e.g. I heard that Professor Freeman had already published his new book.

  • Sentences with Complex Object are translated into Russian/Ukrainian with a subordinate clause,

e.g. Did you see the children leave for school? = Ты видел, что дети ушли в школу?

Cinderella saw the pumpkin turning into a carriage. = Золушка видела, как тыква превращалась в карету.

  1. After the verbs of mental activity

to think to believe to expect to suppose to leave to know

to find to allow to order to invite to help to picture

to permit to prefer to press to warn to imagine to forbid

to encourage to command to understand to persuade to suspect

e.g. We thought Tim to be an honest man.

Della preferred John to read in the garden.

I found the book to be really boring.

Father ordered the books to be brought home

The mother believed her daughter to be reading in her room.


  • Only to + infinitive is used after these verbs.

  • In Modern English this structure is rather literary and not very common. It is more natural to use a subordinate clause instead.

e.g. I though Brown to be an excellent choice for the position.(very formal)

I though that Brown was an excellent choice for the position (more natural)

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