I'm having a hard time seeing how nouns become the object for a verb and sometimes how they aren't.

For example, some objectless clauses (From http://dictionary.reference.com/search?r=8&q=verged ):

a statesman who verged on greatness - Here, greatness is a noun and the verb 'verged' is acting on it.

a situation that verged on disaster. - Here, disaster is a noun and the verb is doing the same thing.

However, according to

  • In "We listened to the radio", the radio is the object of the preposition to, and the prepositional object of the verb listened.

  • Now, in the clauses from the dictionary, there is the preposition 'on' and the nouns 'greatness' and 'disaster'. What I don't get is how 'on greatness' and 'on disaster' aren't objects.
    EOF_HEAD>BOF_SUBHEAD>Here's the relevant definition from that first link.

    intr.v. verged, verg·ing, verg·es
    1. To approach the nature or condition of something specified; come close. Used with on: a brilliance verging on genius.
    Note the abbreviation intr. This means intransitive. That is, the verb does not take an object. (A transitive verb can take an object.)

    In the second link, three kinds of objects are described. The first two (direct and indirect) are objects of verbs; the third is the object of a preposition. Now the verb verge, we see above, cannot take an object, so the only object possible in your example is the third type -- object of a preposition. And the preposition is on.

    verged - on - greatness = verb - preposition - object of the preposition on.
    verged - on - disaster = verb - preposition - object of the preposition on.

    In that second link, the term "prepositional object of the verb" is very confusing. If I were you, I would not take this terminology too seriously. This is a term sometimes used for the complement of a "prepositional verb", that is, a combination of verb and preposition which is fairly fixed in meaning and acts as a unit, like 'listen to'. It is an open question whether 'verge on' can be considered such a verb.

    In that link, the introduction of this advanced bit of specialized information in the middle of a simple explanation of the three types of objects serves no purpose except to confuse, and the author would have done better to omit it.

    I hope this helps.
    I think the 'on' is attached to the 'verged' rather than 'greatness' and 'disaster'. We always say 'verge on' something. I'm verging on insanity trying to get my head around this grammar.

    I hope that helped.
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    The mistake you're making here is that you are assuming "greatness" and "disaster" are both functioning as nouns in these sentences. They are not. To understand a word's 'part of speech,' you must see how it functions in the sentence. The same word can have a different part of speech in different sentences, depending on how it interacts with the other words of the sentence in question.

    The two clauses in your first two sentences contain 'adjective clauses.' These are clauses that modify nouns and pronouns. Most adjective clauses start with 'relative pronouns' or when, where or why. Relative pronouns include who, that, which, whom, whose, whoever, whomever, whichever, what and whatever. Adjective clauses beginning with a relative pronoun may also be called relative clauses.

    Your two adjective clauses are:

    "who verged on greatness." (describing the antecedent "statesman")


    "that verged on disaster." (describing the antecedent "situation")

    Those clauses each contain the preposition 'on,' which combines with the following words to form a 'prepositional phrase.' The prepositional phrases of each clause are:

    "on greatness"


    "on disaster"

    Prepositional phrases are units that function as an adjective or an adverb.

    Here, "greatness" and "disaster" are functioning as adverbs as part of their respective prepositional phrases "on greatness" and "on disaster." Once again, just because a word is one part of speech in one sentence, it doesn't mean it has the same part of speech in every sentence. Ain't grammar fun? Emotion: wink
     CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.