What Is the Objective Case? (with Examples)

by Craig Shrives

Objective Case

The objective case is used for nouns and pronouns that function as objects.

objective case

There are three types of object:
  • Direct Object. The direct object is the thing being acted on by the verb. For example:
    • I saw her yesterday.
    • ("Her" is the direct object of the verb "saw." "Her" is the objective-case version of "she.")
  • Indirect Object. The indirect object of a sentence is the recipient of the direct object. For example:
    • I wrote him a letter.
    • ("Him" is the indirect object of the verb "wrote", i.e., the recipient of "a letter," which is the direct object. "Him" is the objective-case version of "he.")
  • Object of a Preposition. The object of a preposition is the noun or pronoun governed by a preposition. For example:
    • It is a present from them.
    • ("Them" is the object of the preposition "from." "Them" is the objective-case version of "they.")
In English, the objective case only affects personal pronouns (e.g., "I," "he," "she," "we," "they"). For example, "he" becomes "him," and "they" becomes "them."

Examples of the Objective Case (Direct Object)

The direct object of a verb is the thing being acted upon by the verb. In other words, the direct object is the receiver of the action. The direct object can be found by locating the verb and asking "what?" or "whom?". For example:
  • Please send him immediately.
  • (Q: "send" what or whom? A: "him")
    (In this example, the pronoun "him" is in the objective case. It has changed its form from "he" to "him." "He" is the subjective case version.)
  • Please send this letter immediately.
  • (Q: "send" what? A: "this letter")
    (In this example, the noun phrase "this letter" is in the objective case. However, it does not change. Remember that only some personal pronouns change their forms in the objective case in English.)
Read more about direct objects.

Examples of the Objective Case (Indirect Object)

The indirect object is the recipient of the direct object. The indirect object can be found by locating the direct object (see above) and then asking who or what received it. In the examples below, the indirect objects are shaded, and the direct objects are in bold.
  • Please send me the letter immediately.
  • (Q: "send" what? A: "the letter")
    (Q: Who (or what) received "the letter? A: "me")
  • Friends should always tell you the truth. But, please don't.
  • (Q: "tell" what? A: "the truth")
    (Q: Who (or what) received it? A: "you")
    (Not all personal pronouns change their forms in the objective case. In this example, "you" is in the objective case, which is the same spelling as the subjective case version.)
Read more about indirect objects.

Examples of the Objective Case (Object of a Preposition)

The noun or pronoun after a preposition is known as the object of a preposition. In the examples below, the prepositions are in bold.
  • She sits with me.
  • We will sail alongside her.
  • You can tell a lot about a fellow's character by his way of eating jellybeans. (President Ronald Reagan)
  • (Here, the objects of the prepositions are noun clauses. An object can be a single word, a pronoun, a noun phrase, or a noun clause.)
Read more about objects of prepositions.

The Objective Case

Objects (i.e., direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of prepositions) are always in the objective case. In English, this only affects pronouns (but not all pronouns). Here is a list of subjective pronouns and objective pronouns:
Subjective PronounObjective PronounComment
Ime 
youyouNo change
hehim 
sheher 
ititNo change
weus 
theythem 
whowhom More on who & whom
whoeverwhomever 

The Accusative and Dative Cases

When studying other languages, you might encounter the accusative case (for direct objects) and the dative case (for indirect objects). These two cases are used for the objects of prepositions too. In English, there is no distinction between the forms of the accusative case and dative case. The objective case covers both.

Read more about the other cases.

Why Should I Care about the Objective Case?

Here are four good reasons to care about the objective case.

(Reason 1) This is good stuff for learning a foreign language.

In English, objects take the objective case. This only affects pronouns. It just means that words like "I," "he," "she," "we," and "they" change to "me," "him," "her," "us," and "them."

Even though using the objective case might come naturally in English, it usually doesn't come so naturally when learning a foreign language (especially as their articles ("a," "an," "the") and adjectives are likely to change too when they're used as objects). For example:
LanguageSubjective CaseObjective Case
Englishone small dogI have one small dog.
(There is no change.)
Germanein kleiner HundIch habe einen kleinen Hund.
(The article and adjective change if it's an object.)
Bosnianjedan mali pasImam jednog malog psa.
(The article, adjective, and noun change if it's an object.)
Most languages follow this structure: Remember that, in English, the objective case covers the accusative case and the dative case.

(Reason 2) Don't confuse "who" and "whom."

Use "whom" if it's an object. For example:
  • She saw whom?
  • (Here, "whom" is a direct object.)
  • You wrote whom a letter?
  • ("Whom" is an indirect object.)
  • The article is about whom?
  • ("Whom" is the object of a preposition.)
Use "who" if it's a subject. For example:
  • Who saw Charles?
  • (Here, "who" is the subject of the verb "saw.")
Read more about "who" and "whom.".

(Reason 3) Making sure your subject and verb agree.

The object of a preposition cannot be the subject of a verb.
  • A box of trophies were for sale.
  • A box of trophies was for sale.
Don't be fooled by the proximity of the object of the preposition ("trophies") to the verb. You must ensure the subject ("box") and the verb agree in number.

This error is particularly common with the word "each" (which is singular).
  • Each of the students are assigned a mentor.
  • Each of the students is assigned a mentor.
  • (Don't be fooled by "students" being plural. Remember that the object of a preposition ("students") cannot be the subject of a verb. The subject is "each," which is singular.)
Read more about subject-verb agreement.

(Reason 4) "I" can't be an object.

"I" cannot be an object (a direct object, an indirect object, or an object of a preposition)...ever. This is particularly noteworthy when using a term like "my wife and I" or "between you and me."
  • They gave my wife and I a warning.
  • They gave me and my wife a warning.
It doesn't matter how highbrow "my wife and I" sounds. If you've used it as an object, it's wrong. You should be using "me and my wife" (it sounds more natural that way around).
  • Keep this between you and I.
  • Keep this between you and me.
"Between you and I" is always wrong. Always.

Read more about "my wife and I/me" on the personal pronouns page (see Point 1).
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

What is the subjective case? What are prepositions? What is a direct object? What is an indirect object? What is the object of a preposition? What are noun phrases? What are noun clauses? What are objective pronouns? More on who & whom Glossary of grammatical terms