Direct Object and Indirect Object

What is a Direct Object?

Definition: A direct object receives the action of the verb. We know that verbs describe actions, but it is the direct objects that tell us on "what" or "whom" the action is performed. In other words, a direct object is acted upon by the subject in the sentence.

The most commonly used direct objects are nouns and pronouns.

Note: Direct objects can only exist with transitive verbs. Linking verbs cannot have direct objects, because linking verbs do not perform an action. Instead, linking verbs are followed by "subject complements".

In most cases, sentences with an action verb also have the object of the verb. However, it is possible to have a sentence where there is a verb with no direct objects. The following are some examples.

How to identify the direct object in a sentence?

If you are interested in identifying the direct object in a sentence, try asking the question: on "what", or "whom", the action is being performed? Therefore, in the sentence above, "She wrote a letter", the action performed is identified by the word "wrote" (the verb). Now, ask yourself: "what has been written?" In this example, it is "a letter" that has been written, therefore, "the letter" is the direct object.

Please look at the examples below, and try to identify the verbs and the direct objects in each of them.

  • Molly bought a car.

  • She wrote a letter.

  • He is playing hockey.

  • Alice made a dress.

  • He likes chocolates.

  • Lily moved the house.

  • She played the guitar.

  • He read a story.

  • She sang a song.

What is an Indirect Object?

Definition: An Indirect Object is the recipient of the direct object. An indirect object usually comes between the verb and the direct object. An indirect object can only exist with a direct object. An indirect object can be a noun, noun phrase or pronoun.

Direct and Indirect Object

Note: Two important points to remember when using indirect objects:

  1. We cannot have an indirect object without a direct object. This point is obvious from the definition above.
  2. Only transitive verbs have an indirect object.
  3. If a pronoun is used as an indirect object, it must be in the objective case. For example, for singular first-person, the pronoun in the objective case is "me"; therefore, using the pronoun "I" will be incorrect. This is a common mistake that can be easily avoided.

The following are some examples.

  • Molly sent him a letter.

  • She gave her daughter a car.

  • He made her a cake.

  • Alice sent me a gift.

  • He showed me the house.

  • Alice asked me a question.

  • She passed me the paper.

  • He gave them some homework.

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