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?

An indirect object is a noun, noun phrase, or pronoun that indicates to or for whom or what an action is performed. In other words, the indirect object tells us to or for whom or what the direct object is intended.

Verbs and Indirect Objects

As you know, verbs that need an object to be complete are called transitive verbs. 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 Sentence

It is important to note that indirect objects come right after the ditransitive verb and before the direct object. Thus, the structure is as follows:

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

Now, let us analyze some examples below:

I want to buy her a valuable gift.

Here, 'her' is the indirect object and has come after the ditransitive verb and before the direct object (a valuable gift).

Will you promise to write me letters every week?

Dequincy told me about the horrible incident.

Tip!

Typically, animals and people function as indirect objects and direct objects are often non-living things. However, there are always exceptions.

Finding Indirect Objects

Indirect objects receive the action of the verb and answer the questions 'to/for whom' or 'to/for what'. They are used when a sentence has both a direct and an indirect object and follow a ditransitive verb. Indirect objects always come before the direct object in the sentence. 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 essential when a sentence has a transitive verb as they receive the action of the verb. In contrast, indirect objects are not necessary and are dependent on the presence of direct objects in the sentence. 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 is dependent on the direct object.

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