The Function of an Indirect Object in English Grammar

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In English grammar, an indirect object is a noun or pronoun that indicates to whom or for whom the action of a verb in a sentence is performed.

With verbs that can be followed by two objects, the indirect object typically comes immediately after the verb and before the direct object.

When pronouns function as indirect objects, they customarily take the form of the objective case. The objective forms of English pronouns are me, us, you, him, her, it, them, whom and whomever.

Also Known As: dative case

Examples and Observations

Charles Portis: Instead of answering my question, he showed me a photograph of his father, the squeamish Otho.

Bill Bryson: I had about two inches of water left, and passed him the bottle.

Mitch Hedberg: I bought myself a parrot. The parrot talked. But it did not say, 'I'm hungry,' so it died.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney: I never give you my pillow,
I only send you invitations,
And in the middle of the celebrations, I break down.

William Shakespeare: Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have
Immortal longings in me.

Ron Cowan: The two patterns for sentences with indirect objects are the prepositional pattern and the dative movement pattern. Depending primarily on the verb, both patterns or only one pattern may be possible. In the prepositional pattern, the indirect object occurs after the direct object and is preceded by a preposition. In the dative movement pattern, the indirect object occurs before the direct object.

James R. Hurford: The verbs which can take an indirect object are a subset of transitive verbs, and known as 'ditransitives.' For English, such ditransitive verbs include give, send, lend, lease, rent, hire, sell, write, tell, buy and make.

Rodney D. Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum: The indirect object is characteristically associated with the semantic role of recipient ... But it may have the role of beneficiary (the one for whom something is done), as in Do me a favour or Call me a taxi, and it may be interpreted in other ways, as seen from examples like This blunder cost us the match, or I envy you your good fortune.

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Nordquist, Richard. "The Function of an Indirect Object in English Grammar." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). The Function of an Indirect Object in English Grammar. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "The Function of an Indirect Object in English Grammar." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2023).