Direct object, indirect object, and object of a preposition— are the three types of objects in English grammar. However, as per my teaching experience, direct and indirect objects are the most confusing ones for most English language learners.
In this post, I’ll discuss how to identify and use direct and indirect objects with proper examples and relevant questions.
If there’s only one object in a sentence & the noun or pronoun comes after the verb and answers the question of “what or whom,” it’s a direct object. And if there is more than one object in a sentence & the noun or pronoun that answers the question of “whom” comes before the direct object, it’s an indirect object.
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Table of Contents
- A Checklist to Understanding Direct and Indirect Objects
- What is an Object in English Grammar?
- What Is a Direct Object of a Sentence?
- What Is an Indirect Object of a Sentence?
- What Is an Object of a Preposition?
- How to Identify Objects with Transitive/Intransitive Verbs in Sentences
- Do Linking Verbs Take an Object?
- Guide to Using Objects in Sentences in Passive Voice
- In Conclusion
A Checklist to Understanding Direct and Indirect Objects
- Only a noun or a pronoun can work as a subject or an object.
- There are three types of objects: direct, indirect, and object of a preposition.
- A direct object makes the action of the verb (transitive) complete.
- An indirect object receives the outcome or benefit of the action of the verb.
- A direct object and an indirect object can appear in the same sentence.
- If there’s only one object in a sentence, it must be a direct object.
- Indirect objects always come before direct objects.
- Only transitive verbs can take an object.
- Intransitive verbs don’t take an object.
- Linking verbs don’t take an object.
- Only sentences with a transitive verb can be converted into a passive voice.
What is an Object in English Grammar?
An object is a noun or a pronoun that gives meaning to the action of the subject. Sometimes, the agreement between the subject and the verb may not be complete in terms of giving meaning. And that’s when you need to use an object to give complete meaning to the sentence.
Incorrect: Cows produce. [Incomplete meaning without an object]
Correct: Cows produce milk. [Complete meaning with an object]
In the above example, “Cows produce,” we can assume that cows produce something, but we don’t know what it actually is. Although the subject and the verb agree with each other in terms of form, they lack a sort of agreement in terms of meaning. And that’s the gap an object can fill in.
There are three types of objects in English, as I mentioned in the beginning. They are:
- Direct Objects
- I like chocolates.
- Indirect Objects
- She sent me the chocolates.
- Objects of a Preposition
- I also like the smell of the chocolates.
What Is a Direct Object of a Sentence?
A direct object is a noun or a pronoun that completes the action of the verb and thus gives a complete meaning to the sentence. The subject does something, and that “something” is the direct object.
For example: “The sun gives light.”
In this sentence, “The sun” is the subject, “gives” is the verb, and “light” is something that the subject (The sun) does (gives). This means that “light is the direct object here.
How to Identify a Direct Object
As you already know what an object is, your next concern is to be able to identify whether it is a direct object or an indirect object. Well, you can identify a direct object in two ways:
- If there’s only one object that comes directly after the verb, it’s a direct object.
- You can also ask a question of either “what” or “whom” to the verb. And the noun or pronoun that gives you the answer should be the direct object.
For example, if we take “The sun gives light” again, you can ask, “The sun gives what?” And the answer is “light.” So, “light” is the direct object here.
Some Examples of Direct Objects
- James brings his wife flowers every day.
- John writes perfect business reports.
- Max never walks his dog.
- Marylin takes her breakfast early, at 6 AM.
- They all complete their work on time.
What Is an Indirect Object of a Sentence?
An indirect object is a noun or pronoun that gets benefits as a result of the action of the verb. For example: “Trees give us oxygen.” So, who gets benefitted as trees give oxygen? It’s “us,” right? So, “us” is an indirect object in this sentence.
An indirect object gives a little more information about the action of the verb. If we say, “Trees give oxygen,” it’s a complete sentence with complete meaning.
But if anyone needs more information and asks, “Trees give oxygen to whom?” or “Who do trees give oxygen to?” you need to use an indirect object here to clarify who gets benefitted from oxygen.
Guide to Identifying an Indirect Object
When there is more than one object, that’s the only chance that one of them will be indirect and the other will be a direct object. This is where most learners get confused. Now that you already know how to identify a direct object, it’s going to be super easy for you to identify an indirect object.
However, you can identify an indirect object in three ways.
- If there is more than one object, and you know which one is direct, the other one will be an indirect object. [Funny and easy way!]
- Look at the meaning of the sentence and see who gets benefitted from the action of the verb.
- Look at the position: An indirect object always comes before a direct object.
For example, if we take “Trees give us oxygen,” again, you see that there are two objects— “oxygen” and “us.” If you know that “oxygen” works as a direct object because it answers the question of “what,” it’s easy to say that “us” is the indirect object. Also, “us” receives the benefit of oxygen. And it comes before the direct object.
Note that direct and indirect objects can appear in the same sentence. In that case, the indirect object comes before the direct object.
Example: Dad gifted “me” “this book” on my last birthday.
Here, “me” is the indirect object, while “this book” is the direct object.
Some Examples of Indirect Objects
- Shaila gave me a nice flower vase on my last birthday.
- Fahim sent her the flowers.
- Mother bought Robin this phone yesterday.
- Nafin wanted to buy her sister a storybook.
- Nobody asked me this question before.
What Is an Object of a Preposition?
The noun or pronoun that comes after a preposition and forms a prepositional phrase is called an object of a preposition. It clarifies the meaning of the verb.
- The bird is flying in the sky.
In this sentence, the noun “the sky” appears after the preposition “in,” clarifying the meaning of the verb. Without the noun “sky” working as an object, the verb (is flying) with only the preposition (in) remains incomplete.
- The bird is flying in. (Incorrect)
How to Convert an Indirect Object into an Object of a Preposition
We know that an indirect object usually comes before a direct object. However, moving the indirect object from its usual place can change the type of object into the object of a preposition.
- Mike sent me the letter.
In this sentence, “me” is the indirect object as it comes before the direct one “letter.” But if we rearrange the words and move the indirect object from before the direct object to after and add an extra preposition “to,” it becomes an object of a preposition.
- Mike sent the letter to me.
Here, “me” is the object of a preposition as it comes after the preposition.
Let’s look at some more examples.
Indirect Object: Hasan gave me this book.
Object of a Preposition: Hasan gave this book to me.
Indirect Object: You didn’t wish me luck.
Object of a Preposition: You didn’t wish luck to me.
How to Identify Objects with Transitive/Intransitive Verbs in Sentences
As you know how to identify a direct and an indirect object by learning about objects, it’s also a good idea to know the relationship between objects and transitive/intransitive verbs.
A transitive verb is the only verb that takes an object. In fact, this verb is always incomplete without an object.
- I had my dinner.
In this sentence, “had” is the transitive verb because it’s incomplete without the object “my dinner.” “I had” doesn’t make complete sense because it makes you ask, “I had what?”
We know that there are some verbs that can work both as transitive and intransitive verbs. Well, let me explain.
If one of those verbs takes an object, be sure that it’s a transitive verb.
- She walks her dog every morning.
On the other hand, if it doesn’t take an object, it means that the verb is an intransitive verb.
- She walks every morning.
Do Linking Verbs Take an Object?
A linking verb never takes an object. In fact, linking verbs don’t have any relation with the idea of an object. There are two reasons why:
Reason 1: A linking verb doesn’t take an object because this verb is not an action verb.
Reason 2: A linking verb doesn’t take an object because an object appears only when there’s an action of the verb to receive.
Guide to Using Objects in Sentences in Passive Voice
I have observed a lot of my students in class and outside making the passive voice of intransitive verbs. We know that intransitive verbs don’t take an object. If there’s no direct object in a sentence, it can’t be expressed in a passive voice.
- She lives in Sweden.
In this sentence, “live” is an intransitive verb that doesn’t take a direct object. And, of course, there’s no way you can express it in a passive voice.
You can only make a passive sentence with transitive verbs because they have a direct object.
- She brought these chocolates for me.
In this sentence, “brought” is a transitive verb, and “chocolates” is the direct object. So, you can express this sentence in a passive way.
- The chocolates were brought for me.
So, I have discussed how to identify direct and indirect objects. I hope this post helps you to solve the puzzle of identifying different objects.
Thanks for reading.