Indirect object masterclass

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Indirect object
Indirect object

This post will help you understand what an indirect object is and how to identify it in a sentence.

What is an indirect object in English?

An indirect object is a person that receives the direct object. It is generally a person but can be a thing too. It is important to note that indirect objects can’t be used without having a direct object in the sentence.

Indirect object explanation infographic
Indirect object explanation infographic

I gave my students some chocolates.

I gave what = my students (direct object)
Gave it to whom (who received the direct object) = some chocolates

The indirect object (my students) receives the direct object (some chocolates) in the sentence.

Jenny brings me flowers every day.

It must be clear now that it’s me (Ashish) who is the receiver of the direct object (flowers). Jerry brings flowers for someone. The person who receives them is the indirect object of the verb.

Jenny brings what = flowers (direct object)
Jenny brings flowers for whom (who receives the flowers) = me (indirect object)

More examples:

1. Can you give us some money?

2. My mother reads my younger sister the same story at bedtime.

3. Let me get her something to eat.

4. You promised my father to give him the tickets.

5. I have taught Monu how to communicate effectively.

6. I won’t tell anyone my secrets.

7. I won’t sell them my house. It’s like my baby.

Verbs that take an indirect objects

  • Sell
  • Buy
  • Tell
  • Give
  • Pass
  • Bring
  • Buy
  • Teach
  • Read
  • Get
  • Sing
  • Hand
  • Lend
  • Send
  • Show
  • Cook
  • Book

How to identify an indirect object?

An indirect object answers the question ‘to whom’ or ‘for whom’. The verb answers either of the questions. Also, note that an indirect object can be used without having a direct object in a sentence.

Examples:

  • I will give you my notes.

Give what = my notes (direct object)
Give it to whom = you (indirect object)

  • Could you please cook me something spicy.

Cook what = something spicy (direct object)
Cook it for whom = me (indirect object)

  • Did you say anything to us?

Said what = anything (direct object)
Said it to whom = us (indirect object)

  • I got all of you new shoes.

Got what = new shoes (direct object)
Got them for whom = all of you (indirect object)

Can an indirect object be a prepositional phrase?

An indirect object can be rephrased into a prepositional phrase by changing its position. This prepositional phrase starts with either ‘to’ or ‘for’.

Changing an indirect object into a prepositional phrase is generally done when the indirect is a long phrase or when you want to separate both the objects using a preposition. The preposition (to/for) establishes the relation between the direct and the indirect object.

Examples:

  • I will give you all my money.
  • I will give all my money to you.

Placing the direct object first and using the preposition after it and before the indirect object makes the relation between both objects clear. The preposition does the job here. It clearly shows who the direct object goes to.

  • Could you give my friend this place for a week?
  • Could you give this place to my friend for a week?
  • She booked me the tickets.
  • She booked the tickets for me.
  • My father has bought my brother a beautiful watch.
  • My father has bought a beautiful watch for my brother.

NOTE: here in sentences where the indirect object is repositioned into a prepositional phrase, what comes after the prepositional phrase is the object of the preposition. But we know it’s actually the indirect object. Now, it’s the object of the preposition, not the object of the verb.

In the last example, my brother is the indirect object of the verb ‘bought’, and in the next sentence, it is the object of the preposition for. We know it’s actually the indirect object, but grammatically, it can’t be called the object of the verb as it’s coming after a preposition.

Some verbs that take the prepositional ‘TO’ and the indirect object

Pass
Give
Read
Sell
offer
write
send
show
sing
teach
owe
Introduce
Subjectverbdirect objectTo + Indirect object (prepositional phrase)
I can’t sellmy propertyto you.
Theyoffereda jobto me.
we don’t oweanything to this company.
Jimintroducedmeto her parents.
He saidsomething very rudeto us.

Introduce and say are one of the few verbs that follow this structure only: subject + verb + direct object + prepositional phrase (to + object). The indirect object with these verbs can’t come before the indirect object.

  • I want to say something to you.
  • I want to say you something. ❌
  • I can’t introduce you to my family.
  • I can’t introduce my family you.

Verbs that take the prepositional ‘FOR’ and the indirect object

  • Get
  • Buy
  • Bring
  • Purchase
Subjectverbdirect objectfor + Indirect object (prepositional phrase)
She gotsome giftsfor the kids.
Iwill buysomethingfor you.
Jonbroughtmany giftsfor us.
My brotherpurchaseda carfor my mother.

What can be an indirect object?

An indirect object can be a word or a phrase.

WORD

  • My mother reads me a story.
  • Did you give Rahul a bike?
  • Let’s get her something to eat.

PHRASE

  • Will you sing me and my friends a song?
  • They gifted my parents a phone.
  • The company willl give a laptop to every employee.
  • I gave your bag to the boy who came to my house with you in the morning.
  • I made all the boys of the batch a sandwich.
  • We have bought gifts for the kids living with Matty in the gurukul.

When it’s a long phrase, we should place the indirect after the direct object, in a prepositional phrase.

If an indirect object is a personal pronoun, it should be an objective pronoun.

Subjective pronounObjective pronoun
Ime
Youyou
Weus
Theythem
Hehim
Sheher
Itit

Examples:

  • Will you give he this bottle?
  • Will you give him this bottle?
  • I got she everything she needed.
  • I got she everything she needed.

An indirect object is generally a person but can be a thing either.

An indirect object is generally a person that receives the direct object, but it can be a thing.

Examples:

  • I will tell you everything.
  • I told the court everything I saw that day.
  • She got us a great deal.
  • She got the company a great deal.

Direct object vs Indirect object

Basis of differenceDirect objectIndirect object
DefinitionIt is a person or a thing that receives an action directly.It is a person or a thing that receives an action directly.
IdentificationIt answers the question ‘what’ or ‘whom‘.It answers the question ‘to whom’ or ‘for whom‘.
DependenceIt can come in a sentence without an indirect object.It can’t come in a sentence without a direct object.
Structure1. Subject + verb + direct object (without the indirect object)
2. Subject + verb + indirect object + direct object (with the indirect object)
1. Subject + verb + indirect object + direct object
2. Subject + verb + direct object + to/for + indirect object
ActorIt can be a person or a thing.It is generally a person or a thing acting as a person/entity.
Examples1. I can help you. (help whom = you)
2. She hit the ball out of the park. (hit what = the ball)
3. You can’t break this wall. (break what = this wall)
4. We love Ashish. (love whom = Ashish)
1. They brought me a gift. (brought it for whom = me)
2. She told the boys a great story. (told it to whom = the boys)
3. Read us this story. (read it to whom = us)
4. I offered his company a good proposal. (offered it to whom = his company)
Difference between direct and indirect object

Now you have successfully mastered what an indirect object is. Don’t keep the knowledge to yourself; pass it onto others. One of the ways to do it is to share the post.

We will meet in the next post. Till then, keep learning.

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