"They called him Bill."



A long-time ESL teacher specializing in grammar, I've been searching in vain for an answer to the following question: What is the function of the last word in the following sentences?
They called him Bill.
They elected him chairman.
It's clear that they is the subject, that called/elected are the verbs, and that him is the direct object. But what is the role of Bill/chairman?

I'd be grateful for any assistance on this.

Posted 06 November 2002

Were these sentences in Portuguese, I believe the words Bill and chairman would be classified as "aposto," whose English equivalent might possibly be "direct object complement" (I think Ive already seen this kind of labeling to describe words in such positions). Anyway, Im not really sure! Ill try to find out more about it!



As Gisele states, the construction They called him Bill contains a "direct object complement" or an "objective complement" or an "object complement" - the word Bill. Bill has the same identity as the direct object of the verb, him.

Some other verbs that take objective complements like this are appoint, choose, consider, elect, name, nominate, and select, as in examples like these:

The governor appointed him interim senator.

When the people didn't elect Smith governor, he retired from the public arena and went back to corporate life.

They selected Helena (as) representative to the class council.

Some verbs, such as select, are often used with as.

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