Natural language object retrieval is a highly useful yet challenging task for robots in human-centric environments. Previous work has primarily focused on commands specifying the desired object's type such as "scissors" and/or visual attributes such as "red," thus limiting the robot to only known object classes. We develop a model to retrieve objects based on descriptions of their usage. The model takes in a language command containing a verb, for example "Hand me something to cut," and RGB images of candidate objects and selects the object that best satisfies the task specified by the verb. Our model directly predicts an object's appearance from the object's use specified by a verb phrase. We do not need to explicitly specify an object's class label. Our approach allows us to predict high level concepts like an object's utility based on the language query. Based on contextual information present in the language commands, our model can generalize to unseen object classes and unknown nouns in the commands. Our model correctly selects objects out of sets of five candidates to fulfill natural language commands, and achieves an average accuracy of 62.3% on a held-out test set of unseen ImageNet object classes and 53.0% on unseen object classes and unknown nouns. Our model also achieves an average accuracy of 54.7% on unseen YCB object classes, which have a different image distribution from ImageNet objects. We demonstrate our model on a KUKA LBR iiwa robot arm, enabling the robot to retrieve objects based on natural language descriptions of their usage. We also present a new dataset of 655 verb-object pairs denoting object usage over 50 verbs and 216 object classes.