Indirect Objects

As you know, there are three different groups of objects in English. This article is about indirect objects and their functions.

"Indirect Objects" in the English Grammar

What Are Indirect Objects?

An 'indirect object' is a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase that indicates who or what receives the direct object.

What Is the Difference Between Indirect Objects and Direct Objects?

'Direct objects' do not need indirect objects to have a complete meaning as a result if there is only one object in a sentence it is a 'direct object' for sure. If a sentence has two objects the one that receives the action of the verb is the direct object and the one which receives the direct object is the indirect object.

I called him.

In this sentence, the pronoun 'him' is the only object of the sentence so, it is a 'direct object.'

I gave him the keys.

Here, 'the keys' receives the action of the verb and 'him' receives the keys so, the keys is the 'direct object' and the pronoun him is the 'indirect object.'

Indirect Objects and Verbs

Any verb that can take an object is a 'transitive' verb, but verbs that can take a direct object and also an indirect object are called 'ditransitive' verbs. Here are the most common ditransitive verbs in English:

  1. give
  2. send
  3. lend
  4. lease
  5. rent
  6. hire
  7. sell
  8. write
  9. tell
  10. buy
  11. make

You were supposed to bring us the menu.

He did not sell them the house.

Position of Indirect Objects in a Sentence

using an indirect object in a sentence

Some would think because these objects are indirect, they would be put after the direct objects, but in fact, indirect objects are placed after the ditransitive verbs and before the direct objects. To be clear there is a complete structure as follows:

Subject + ditransitive verb + indirect object + direct object + adverbial adjuncts

He wrote him a letter yesterday morning.

Sara did me a favor that I can never ever forget.

I volunteered to send the guests the emails.


1. You cannot use adverbial adjuncts after indirect objects.
2. Linking verbs cannot take objects.

I lent Tom this morning money.

I seem Tommy.

How to Find Indirect Objects?

  • 'Indirect objects' answer the question who or what receives the direct objects.
  • They only exist when there are two objects in a sentence.
  • 'Indirect objects' follow ditransitive verbs.
  • They always precede the direct object.

Check out the examples for more clarification:

I am sorry to give you such hard time.

Here the pronoun 'you' is used after the ditransitive verb 'give' and precedes the direct object 'time.'

I'll send Sebrina a box of chocolates for her birthday.

Indirect Objects or Prepositional Phrases

'Indirect objects' can be placed at the end of the sentence following the prepositions 'to' and 'for.' In this case, they make a prepositional phrase that is used as a complement, not as an indirect object. Here are a few examples:

I have made a cup of coffee for you.

Marco handed the constitutions to Frodo.

What Indirect and Direct Objects Refer to

Usually, indirect objects are considered animals or people who receive the effects of the verbs. Direct objects usually are things that are not living things. check out the table:

Living Not living
Direct objects often ✗
Indirect objects often ✗

She will get him a present to apologize.

The kind mother reads her children stories.


Nouns, noun phrases, or pronouns that are used after ditransitive verbs and before direct objects are called indirect objects. They are not necessary to be used for all transitive verbs, but they complete the meaning of the sentence.


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