What Are Indirect Objects?

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Indirect objects are persons or things who receive the benefits of an action. In other words, when somebody does something for someone or something the person or thing it is done for is the indirect object. For example:

Tom gave me the book.
Melissa bought Tim some chocolate.

In the first sentence, the direct object 'book' was given to me, the indirect object. In other words, I received the benefit. In the second sentence, Tim received the direct object 'chocolate'. Notice that the indirect object is placed before the direct object.

Indirect Objects Answer Questions

Indirect objects answer the questions 'to whom', 'to what', 'for whom' or 'for what'. For example:

Susan offered Fred some good advice.

To whom was advice (direct object in a sentence) offered? -> Fred (indirect object)

The teacher teaches the students science in the morning.

For whom is science (direct object in a sentence) taught? -> the students (indirect object)

Nouns as Indirect Objects

Indirect objects can be nouns (things, objects, people, etc.). Generally, however, indirect objects are usually people or groups of people. This is because indirect objects (people) receive the benefit of some action. For example:

I read Peter the report.

'Peter' is the indirect object and 'the report' (what I read) is the direct object.

Mary showed Alice her house.

'Alice' is the indirect object and 'the house' (what she showed) is the direct object.

Pronouns as Indirect Objects

Pronouns can be used as indirect objects. It's important to note that pronouns used as indirect objects must take the object pronoun form. Object pronouns include me, you, him, her, it, us, you, and them. For example:

Greg told me the story.

'Me' is the indirect object and 'the story' (what Greg told) is the direct object.

The boss lent them the start-up investment.

'Them' is the indirect object and 'the start-up investment' (what the boss lent) is the direct object.

Noun Phrases as Indirect Objects

Noun phrases (a descriptive phrase ending in a noun: a beautiful vase, an interested, wise, old professor) can also be used as indirect objects. For example:

The composer wrote the dedicated, poor singers a song to perform.

'the dedicated, poor singers' are the indirect object (noun phrase form), while 'a song' (what the composer wrote) is the direct object.

Relative Clauses as Indirect Objects

Relative clauses which define an object can also function as indirect objects. For example:

Peter promised the man, who had been waiting for an hour, the next tour of the building.

In this case, 'the man' is defined by the relative clause 'who had been waiting for an hour' both of these make up the indirect object. 'The next tour of the building' (what Peter promises) is the direct object.

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Beare, Kenneth. "What Are Indirect Objects?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/indirect-objects-in-english-grammar-1211103. Beare, Kenneth. (2023, April 5). What Are Indirect Objects? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/indirect-objects-in-english-grammar-1211103 Beare, Kenneth. "What Are Indirect Objects?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/indirect-objects-in-english-grammar-1211103 (accessed June 4, 2023).