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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.)
- Paula passed her father the parcel. (The indirect object (i.e., the recipient) is her father.)
Examples of Indirect ObjectsHere are some examples of indirect objects (shaded):
- Simon gave his uncle a dirty look. (his uncle - indirect object)
- Paula passed the money to her father. (her father - indirect object)
- Let him have it. (him - indirect object)
- Shall I tell the children our ghost story tonight? (the children - indirect object)
(Note: Sometimes, the indirect object will follow a preposition like to or for.)
(Note: When the indirect object is a pronoun, the pronoun must be in the objective case.)
How to Find the Indirect ObjectBefore 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.)
Only Transitive Verbs Have Direct Objects and Indirect ObjectsA 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 = skidded)
- Lee is snoring heavily. (Step 1. Find the verb = is snoring)
(Step 2. Ask What? = Nothing. You can't skid something.)
(Therefore, there is no direct object. The verb to skid is intransitive.)
(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 ObjectsIf 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)
- Johnathan seemed uncomfortable. (Step 1. Find the verb = seemed)
(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.)
(Step 2. Ask What? = uncomfortable.)
(However, uncomfortable is not the direct object. This is because to seem is a linking verb.)
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