When I teach grammar, I try to come up with attention-grabbing example sentences. The ones that come in textbooks are notoriously dull (“The person went to the place to get the thing.”), so I want to juice it up a bit and inject a bit of my trademarked brand of life into what most folks see as a dreadfully lame subject.
Here are two examples of standard favorites in my classes:
I kicked the freshman.
“Freshman” receives the action of the verb “kicked,” so it is the direct object.
I threw Paris Hilton a live grenade.
What did I actually throw? Paris Hilton? Good gravy, no. That would require touching her. No, I threw a grenade. That makes “grenade” the direct object. Paris Hilton received the direct object, making her the indirect object. And, hopefully, soon to be an irritating, repressed memory.
This demonstration shares a bit of the twisted humor of Karen Elizabeth Gordon’s classic grammar “textbook,” The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed. Gordon’s approach is to present clear, sprightly explications of general grammatical matters with examples that tend to be about supernatural, nocturnal creatures interacting in the prosaic lives of hapless mortals of a dizzying variety of idiosyncratic bents. (The book never makes this explicit, but I suppose the title character is meant to represent the fact that a transitive verb, like a vampire, only functions when it has an object upon which to act. Cute, yes?)
I labor intensively, ripping asunder the very dendrites of my brain in Herculean attempts to come up with more than few clever example sentences in class; Gordon has filled an entire book where every page presents at least a few laugh-out-loud such sentences.
- The robot designated the dentist his partner.
- There are five more cupcakes than we have frosting for; I’ll leave them for that loner by the river.
- Sophie, abandoning her rented canoe, exchanges pleasantries in the shade with a newt.
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