Sentence Diagrams

Sentence 8

Side air bags--the latest in high-tech auto safety devices--are providing effective protection in actual crashes while largely avoiding inadvertent injuries to passengers, an industry technical group reported yesterday.

          - R. Alonzo-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times (published on June 2, 2000, in Louisville, KY, in The Courier-Journal, page A5)

Lesson 8: As you know, a noun or pronoun can function as the subject of a sentence or as the object of a preposition. Now let's examine a third use, as direct object. As the name implies, the direct object directly completes the action of the verb. It can be identified by asking whom? or what? immediately after most verbs (details later). If a given word provides an answer to either of these questions (but not to to whom?--more about that later), you have found the direct object. Note that not all sentences have direct objects. A word of caution: the direct object does not come right after a preposition; that's the object of the preposition. In the above sentence, protection is the direct object of the verb are providing, while injuries is the direct object of the participle (a verbal adjective--more later) avoiding. For details about the direct object of reported, see No. 1 below.
Apologia pro descriptione mea: 1. A direct object can be an entire clause (a clause which may itself contain a direct object). In the sentence under consideration, all words from Side to passengers (actually two clauses) constitute the direct object of the verb reported. 2. Since while cannot be a preposition, avoiding cannot be a gerund; instead, it is the participial  part of the progressive verb form are avoiding, whose subject is an unexpressed they. In the diagram, the missing words they and are are indicated by x's. 3. While is a relative adverb; the line used to diagram it is broken in the middle and solid on each end. The solid parts are intended to show that the phrases during the time and at which (which is a relative pronoun) have been replaced by while
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