What is an indirect object?

Are you ready to learn about indirect objects (IOs)? Great!

If you haven't read the lesson on direct objects (DOs) yet, you'll probably want to do that before reading on.

Quick Refresher 

  • Direct objects complete the meaning of certain action verbs. Direct objects are directly affected by the action of the verb. 

                                 The boy kicked the
    ball
                             Elizabeth read the newspaper.

  • To find the direct object, ask this question:

                            What/Whom did the (subject) (verb)?

Indirect objects are nouns that tell us for whom/what or to whom/what the action of the verb is done. They are indirectly affected by the action of the verb.

The boy kicked me the ball.

Elizabeth read Lori the newspaper.

Me and Lori are IOs. Me is receiving the direct object (ball), and Lori is the one being read to. 

In order for a sentence to have an IO, it MUST have a DO (direct object).

To find the indirect object, ask this question:


(Subject) (verb) the (direct object) to whom/for whom?


When we fill in the blanks for our example sentences, our question becomes...

The boy kicked the ball to whom?

Elizabeth read the newspaper to whom?

The answers are me and LoriMe and Lori are IOs.

"Missing" Prepositions

Look at these two sentences. 

The boy kicked me the ball.

The boy kicked the ball to me.

Those sentences give us the same information, but one uses a preposition and one does not. (You can read more about prepositions and prepositional phrases here if you'd like.)

 Prepositional Phrases

The boy kicked the ball to me.

Elizabeth read the newspaper to Lori.

I sang a song for my grandma.

To meto Lori and for my grandma are prepositional phrases. Me, Lori, and grandma are objects of the preposition.

 Indirect Objects

The boy kicked me the ball.

Elizabeth read Lori the newspaper.

I sang my grandma a song.

Sentences with IOs tell us TO whom/what or FOR whom/what something is done, but they don't contain the words to or for. It's as if these sentences contain "missing" prepositions. 

Sentence Diagramming + Indirect Objects

IOs are diagrammed underneath the verb just like a prepositional phrase without the preposition. 

Place an (x) in the place where the preposition would normally go.

Your Turn

Find the verbs, the DOs, and the IOs in the following sentences. 

1. I gave my friend a bouquet of flowers.

2. Jeremy and Sara brought the hostess delicious chocolates.

3. Olivia's music teacher lent her a recording of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite

4. My sister-in-law sent us photos of the wedding.

5. The teacher handed her student the assignment.

Answers

The transitive active verbs are in bold, the direct objects are underlined, and the IOs are in red.

1. I gave my friend a bouquet of flowers.

2. Jeremy and Sara brought the hostess delicious chocolates.

3. Olivia's music teacher lent her a recording of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite

4. My sister-in-law sent us photos of the wedding.

5. The teacher handed her student the assignment.

You can test your diagramming skills with these exercises on DOs and IOs.

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Other Helpful Resources

  • This PDF gives you exercises to test yourself.

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