What Is an Indirect Object? (with Examples)

What Is an Indirect Object? (with Examples)

The indirect object of a sentence is the recipient of the direct object. Every sentence must contain a verb. Most verbs have a direct object (the thing being acted upon). For example:

  • Paula passed the parcel.
  • (The direct object is the parcel. There is no recipient in this sentence. Therefore, there is no indirect object.)
Some sentences tell us about the recipient. That's the indirect object. For example:

  • Paula passed her father the parcel.
  • (The indirect object (i.e., the recipient) is her father.)

Examples of Indirect Objects

Here are some examples of indirect objects (shaded):

  • Simon gave his uncle a dirty look.
  • (her uncle - indirect object)

  • Paula passed the money to her father.
  • (her father - indirect object)
    (Note: Sometimes, the indirect object will follow a preposition like to or for.)

  • Let him have it.
  • (him - indirect object)
    (Note: When the indirect object is a pronoun, the pronoun must be in the objective case.)

  • Shall I tell the children our ghost story tonight?
  • (the children - indirect object)

How to Find the Indirect Object

Before you can find the indirect object, you have to find the direct object. You can find the direct object by finding the verb and asking what?. Once you've found the direct object, ask who or what received it? For example:

  • She gave the beggar a gold coin.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = gave)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = a gold coin)
    (Therefore, the direct object is a gold coin.)
    (Step 3. Ask Who (or what) received it? = the beggar)
    (Therefore, the indirect object is the beggar.)
Remember, once you have found the direct object, you have to ask who (or what) received it to find the indirect object.

Only Transitive Verbs Have Direct Objects and Indirect Objects

A verb that takes a direct object is called a transitive verb. A few verbs do not have a direct object. They are known as intransitive verbs. For example:

  • Jonathan skidded on the ice.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = slipped)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = Nothing. You can't skid something.)
    (Therefore, there is no direct object. The verb to skid is intransitive.)

  • Lee is snoring heavily.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = is snoring)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = Nothing. You can't snore something.)
    (Therefore, there is no direct object. The verb to snore is intransitive.)

Do Not Confuse Complements with Direct Objects

If you ask what? with a linking verb, you will find a verb complement not a direct object. For example:

  • Johnathan was angry.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = was)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = angry.)
    (However, on this occasion, angry is not the direct object. This is because was (i.e., the verb to be) is a linking verb.)

  • Johnathan seemed uncomfortable.
  • (Step 1. Find the verb = seemed)
    (Step 2. Ask What? = uncomfortable.)
    (However, uncomfortable is not the direct object. This is because to seem is a linking verb.)



See also:

Take a test on the indirect object
What is a direct object?
What are transitive verbs?
What are intransitive verbs?
What are objects?
What is an object complement?
What is the object of a preposition?
What is the accusative case?
What is the dative case?
Glossary of grammatical terms
 
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