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 to or for whom or what an action is performed or to whom or for whom or what something is given or communicated. In other words, the indirect object tells us to or for whom or what the direct object is intended.

Indirect Objects vs. 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'. If a sentence has two objects, the one that receives the action of the verb is the direct object and the one that 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 both a direct object and 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.


Linking verbs cannot take objects.

I seem Tommy.

Indirect Objects: Position in a Sentence

using an indirect object in a sentence

Indirect objects are not placed after direct objects. Instead, indirect objects appear after ditransitive verbs and before the direct objects. The structure of such a sentence would be 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.


You cannot use adverbial adjuncts after the indirect object.

I lent Tom this morning money.

How to Find the Indirect Objects?

  • 'Indirect objects' answer questions regarding 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.

Instead of 'I have made you a cup of coffee'

Marco handed the constitutions to Frodo.

Indirect and Direct Objects: Usage

Usually, indirect objects are animals or people to or for whom the action of the verb is performed. Direct objects, on the other hand, are usually non-living things that receive the action of the verb. Check out the table:

Living Not living
Direct objects
Indirect objects

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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