Direct Object and Indirect Object




Direct Object and Indirect Object :


Some verbs of giving, telling, refusing and the like may take two objects - a direct object and an indirect object.


The indirect object denotes the person or thing toward whom or toward which is directed the action expressed by the rest of the predicate.


Direct Object only……..Direct Object and Indirect Object

1. Dick sold his bicycle. ……..Dick sold John his bicycle.

2. I gave permission. ……..I gave this man permission.

3. He paid a dollar. ……..He paid the gardener a dollar.

4. She taught Latin. ……..She taught my children Latin.


Most of the verbs that admit an indirect object are included in the following list.


allot, allow, assign, bequeath, bring, deny, ensure, fetch, fling, forbid, forgive, give, grant, guarantee, hand, lease, leave, lend, let, owe, pardon, pass, pay, refund, refuse, remit, restore, sell, send, show, sing, spare, teach, tell, throw, toss, vouchsafe.


Pronouns are commoner as indirect objects than nouns.


1. They denied her the necessities of life.

2. I guaranteed them a handsome profit.

3. The king vouchsafed them an audience.


It is always possible to insert the preposition TO before the indirect object without changing the sense.


Since the indirect object is equivalent to an adverbial phrase, it is classed as a
modifier of the verb .


Thus, in “Dick sold John his bicycle," John is an adverbial modifier of the predicate verb sold.


The indirect object is sometimes used without a direct object expressed. Thus….


He paid the hatter.


Here HATTER may be recognized as an indirect object by inserting to before it and adding a direct object (“his bill," “his money," or the like).


The objective case sometimes expresses the person for whom anything is done.


1. William made his brother a kite [= made a kite for his brother].


2. Sampson built me a boat [= built a boat for me].


This construction may be called the
objective of service .


Note : The objective of service is often included under the head of the indirect object. But the two constructions differ widely in sense and should be carefully distinguished. To do an act to a person is not the same thing as to do an act for a person.


Contrast….. (John paid the money to me.) and (John paid the money for me.)


Contrast….. (Dick sold a bicycle to me.) and (Dick sold a bicycle for me.)


The objective case is used after like, unlike, near and next which are really adjectives or adverbs, though in this construction they are often regarded as prepositions.


1. She sang like a bird. [Like is an adverb.]

2. The earth is like a ball. [Like is an adjective.]

3. My office is near the station. [Near is an adjective.]

4. That answer was unlike Joseph. [Unlike is an adjective.]

5. This man walks unlike Joseph. [Unlike is an adverb.]

6. A stream ran near the hut. [Near is an adverb.]


The use of the objective after these words is a peculiar idiom similar to the indirect object. The nature of the construction may be seen (as in the indirect object) by inserting to or unto (She sang like unto a bird.).


Note : The indirect object, the objective of service and the objective after like, unlike and near are all survivals of old dative constructions. Besides the case of the direct object (often called accusative), English once had a case (called the dative) which meant to or for [somebody or something]. The dative case is easily distinguished in Greek, Latin and German, but in English it has long been merged in form with the ordinary objective.


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