Indirect Objects for intermediate learners

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?

Indirect objects are used to show what or who receives the direct object. They can be either nouns, noun phrases, or pronouns.

Verbs and Indirect Objects

As you already know, verbs that need an object in order to be complete are called transitive verbs. Now, verbs that need both direct and indirect objects are called ditransitive verbs. Below is a list of some common ditransitive verbs in English. Let us take a quick look:

  • Give
  • Sell
  • Write
  • Tell
  • Buy
  • Hire
  • Bring

Position in Sentences

It is important to note that indirect objects come right after the ditransitive verb and before the direct object. Study the following structure carefully:

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

Now, let us analyze some examples below:

Look, I want to buy her a valuable gift.

As you can see, 'her' is the indirect object and has come after the ditransitive verb.

Will you promise to write me letters every week?

Dequincy told me about the horrible incident.


It is useful to know that animals and people mostly function as indirect objects and direct objects are often non-living things. However, note that there are always exceptions.

Finding Indirect Objects

'Indirect objects' answer questions with 'who' or 'what' to show the person/item that receives the action of the verb. They are only used when there is a need for two objects in the sentence. These objects follow ditransitive verbs and they always come before the direct object. Study the following examples:

I can give you a sample. (To whom can I give a sample?)

Sell me this pen, would you? (Sell this pen to who?)

Direct Objects Vs. Indirect Objects

Direct objects are important when we have transitive verbs. The action of the verb is acted upon them. However, indirect objects are not necessary. They are dependent on the direct objects. Compare the following examples:

Samantha is throwing the ball.

As you can see, the sentence is complete with a direct object.

Samantha is throwing the ball to her friend.

Here, 'friend' is an indirect object and it is dependent on the direct object.


Please note that some words need both a direct and an indirect object.


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