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Indirect Objects   (dative verbs)

Indicating receivers of actions

Angela brought me a book

 

Two Placements for the Receiver of the Action

INDIRECT OBJECT

The receiver (recipient or beneficiary) of the action is called the indirect object, which takes the form of a proper noun, noun phrase, or object pronoun, and which is placed after the verb and before the object. This is also called the "dative" case. (The noun to whom something is given.)

SUBJ–VERB INDIRECT OBJ DIRECT OBJ

Angela gave

me

a journal.

Angela gave

the librarian

a textbook.

Angela found

Adam

an out-of-print book.

Angela asked

the librarian

the title.

Angela suggested

*her girlfriend  

a novel.

Angela borrowed

*him

a book.

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE – "TO"

After some verbs, the direct object may be restated as a prepositional phrase¹ with to or for. (See list below.)  This is especially preferred when the direct object  is wordy. That is, we tend to place the "heavier" content toward the end of the sentence.                                                         

SUBJ–VERB DIRECT OBJ PREP PHRASE

Angela gave

a journal

to me.

Angela gave

a textbook

to the librarian

Angela found

an old book

for Adam.

Angela asked

the title

*to the librarian.

Angela suggested

a novel

to her girlfriend.

Angela borrowed

a book

for him.

S– subject; V – verb; IO– indirect object; DO – direct object; PP – prepositional phrase

¹This departs from the traditional analysis, where the prepositional phrases: to me, for me are analyzed as indirect objects.  Semantically, they are the same. (They mean the same). (Huddleston 4.4.3)

*Yellow highlighted text marks an example of incorrect usage.
Also see Intransitive Verb List, verbs that do not take objects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verbs with Two Objects

Recipient is either IO or Prep Phrase (to)

A letter

 

Two Forms—Indirect Object and Prepositional Phrase (to)

INDIRECT OBJECT PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE

The indirect object (expressing the receiver, recipient, or beneficiary of the action) takes the form of a proper noun, noun (phrase) or object pronoun.                      

Alternatively, a prepositional phrase with to followed by a proper noun, noun (phrase) or object pronoun may be used.

 

 

Verbs that take both forms  (IO & to)

award

bring

deny

feed

give

hand

kick

leave  (bequeath)

lend

offer

owe

pass

post

promise

read

sell

send

serve

show

take

teach

tell

throw

write

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verbs with Two Objects

Recipient is IO or Recipient is Prep Phrase (to)

 

 

 

One Form—Indirect Object or Prepositional Phrase (to)

A.   INDIRECT OBJECT – ONLY

A.  INDIRECT OBJECT  – ONLY

allow   My doctor allows me one sweet per day.

ask   My friend asked me a question. 

bet   My friend bet me ten dollars. 

charge     My friend charges me nothing. 

cost     The book cost me twenty dollars. 

fine     The judge fined him $100. 

save     My friend saved me a lot of time. 

spare  She spared me the pain of breaking up.

tax     They taxed us $5,000. 

tip     He tipped them 15%. 

wish     My friend wishes me good luck. 

B.   PREPOSITIONAL "TO" PHRASE – ONLY

B.  PREPOSITIONALPHRASE "TO" – ONLY

announce   He announces the plan to us.

narrate  He is narrated the story to us.

confess   He confessed his plan to the agent.

refer  He referred a new patient to the Dr. Lang.

contribute   I contributed money to them for aid.

prove  He is proving the theory to us.

convey   They conveyed their sympathies to her.

return  He returned the book to his professor.

declare   He declared his intentions to her.

report  He is reporting the plan to us.

describe  She describes the plan to us.

say  She says the words to us.

deliver   He delivered the letter to his family.

speak  She speaks the words to us.

donate   He donated money to them.

submit  He submitted his plan to his coworkers.

explain   He explained the problem to the us.

suggest  She suggested the ideat to everyone.

introduce  She introduces the plan to us.

transfer  Lulu transferred the package to Mr. Lee. 

mention  He is mentioning the plan to us.

 
 

Related page: Say / Tell  |  Said Synonyms  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verbs with Two Objects

Recipient is IO or Prep Phrase (for)

 

 

 

Two Forms—Indirect Object and Prepositional Phrase (for)

INDIRECT OBJECT

With some verbs such as bought, the recipient of the action can be expressed as indirect object.

S V IO DO

My friend

bought

me  

a present.

PREP PHRASE: FOR + NP

Alternatively, the recipient can only be expressed as a prepositional phrase with for.                             

S V DO PP

My friend

bought

a present 

for me.

S– subject; V – verb; IO– indirect object; DO – direct object; PP – prepositional phrase
*error; cannot be used

 

 

Other verbs in this pattern IO/PP (for)

INDIRECT OBJECT

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE—"FOR"

 

 

Verbs that take both forms—IO and for

bake   He baked me a cake. / He baked a cake for me.

hire   He hired us a new driver.. / He hired a new driver for us.

build   He built them a playhouse. / He built a playhouse for them.

left   The agent left us a new proposal./ The agent left a new proposal for us.

buy   She bought me some ice cream. / She bought some ice cream for me.

make The made me a costume. / They made a costume for me.

cook   She cooked them dinner. / She cooked dinner for them.

prescribe  She prescribed me some medicine. / She prescribed some medicine for me

design   The architect designed them a house./ He designed a house for them.

save  They save me a seat at the concert. / They saved a seat for me.

do  She did me a favor. / She did a favor for me.

sang  The singer sang us his new song. / He sang his new song for us.

get  She got me a job. / She got a job for me.

write  She wrote the President a letter.. / She wrote a letter to the President.

find  She found us a home. / She found a home for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verbs with Two Objects

Recipient is Prep Phrase (for)

 

 

 

One Form—Prepositional Phrase (for)

INDIRECT OBJECT

With some verbs such as open, the recipient of the action cannot be expressed as indirect object.

S V IO DO

My friend

opened  

*me

a letter.  

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE—"FOR"

The recipient or receiver is expressed as a prepositional phrase with for.                             

S V DO PP

My friend

opened  

a letter

for me.  

 

 

Other verbs in this patter

INDIRECT OBJECT

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE—FOR

 

 

 

Verbs in which recipient is expressed as a prepositional phrase with for

acquire      Our parents acquired the property for us..

fabricate     They fabricated a new design for the company.

answer      He is answering the question for me.

obtain      He obtained permission for us to enter.

borrow     They borrowed a car for us to use.

open He opened an account for me

cash   He cashed a check for me

perform  He performed the scene for us.

close  They closed the doors for us.

pronounce  He pronounced the word for me.

collect      The boy collected the eggs for us.

recover  The police recovered the stolen painting for us..

compose     They composed a birthday song for her.

retrieve  The dog retrieved the newspaper for his owner.

(ex)change  He exchanged the shoes for me.

withdraw  The man withdrew the money for his parents.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Placement Exceptions

Short Pronouns & Lengthy Objects

 

 

 

Placing heavier content at the end

IT / THEM

When the direct object is a personal pronoun like it or them, the indirect object is restated as a prepositional phrase at the end of the clause.

Will you please give me it? ⇒ Will you please give it to me.

 I am showing my family them. ⇒ I am showing them to my family.

 

LENGTHY OBJECTS

Speakers often prefer to state the recipient as an indirect object rather than a prepositional phrase If the direct object is lengthy (if the verb permits) ,

Please give that purple and pink poster that you have on the wall to me.
⇒ Please give me that purple and pink poster that you have on the wall.

I will sell the television with the forty-inch screen and surround sound to him.
→  I will sell him the television with the forty-inch screen and surround sound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indirect Object as Sole Object

When the "receiver" is the sole object in a clause

 

 

 

When a clause has one object, that object is always called direct object, even when its meaning is that of  receiver or beneficiary of the action.  That is, an indirect object is found only in combination with a direct object.

With such verbs, the receiver "is most directly associated with the verb" and is, therefore, called the direct object of the clause.  He hit me with a stick.  He blamed me for the accident. He excused me for the offense. (Huddleston 251, 281)

 

 

Buy vs. Thank

BUY

The verbs buy and thank differ in the words that complement each of them.  Buy is complemented by a direct object (the person or thing being acted upon) and optionally an indirect object (the receiver or beneficiary of the action).  Note that either the direct or indirect object could be e subject of the passive sentence.  (Swan 6.10)

S – V IO DO

You bought

me  

a gift.

S – V DO PP

You bought

a gift  

for me.

THANK

On the other hand, thank is complemented by a direct object and optionally: the preposition for + noun (the gift), an adverb phrase (very much), or a gerund clause (for giving me...) 

S – V †DO PP / ADV / GER

(I) Thank

you.  

 

(I) Thank

the gift 

you    not used

(I) Thank

you

for the gift. (PP)

(I) Thank

you

very much. (ADVP)

(I) Thank

you   

for giving me a gift. (GER)

S– subject; V – verb; IO– indirect object; DO – direct object; PP – prepositional phrase; ADV – adverb; GER – gerund;
complement – a word, phrase or clause which is necessary in a sentence to complete its meaning
adjunct – a word, phrase, or clause which adds information but is not necessary (optional) in a sentence to complete its meaning.

† Note that you is the direct object.  Typically the receiver or beneficiary is the indirect object.  However, when there is no indirect object, the receiver of the action is the direct object. (Huddleston 251, 281) 

Also see Thank you for -ing. for similar verbs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

* You bought for me a sandwich.

 

* Thank you the sandwich. 

 

~ He gave me it.

SOLUTION

You bought a sandwich for me(Place the prepositional phrase at the end of the clause.)

Thank you for the sandwich(If you include the item (noun), place it in a preposition phrase with for.)

He gave it to me.    Avoid using two short pronouns.

He gave me the letterExpand one of the pronouns.

 

* Incorrect / ~ Questionable use

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Traditional & Linguistic Description

Advanced

 

 

Traditional &. Linguistic Description

TRADITIONAL GRAMMAR LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

In traditional grammar, to me and for me are taken as indirect objects.

(Swan "Verbs with two objects" 610)

In current linguistic description, a monotransitive verb takes a noun phrase (NP) as its complement. A ditransitive verb takes a direct object and an indirect object as its complements.  The phrases to me and for me are categorized as prepositional phrases rather than indirect objects. The meaning is the same.

(Huddleston "Direct and Indirect Objects" 244-6, "Ditransitive Clauses" 248, Ditransitive/monotransitive contrasts" 308-9)

You bought me a gift.
You bought me a gift.

You bought for me a gift. / You bought a gift for me.

You bought a gift for me.

See diagrams below.

 

 

 

Diagrams: Buy vs. Thank

BUY — IO + DO BUY — DO + PP  THANK —  DO + PP

Verbs that are complemented by indirect and direct objects, normally call the receiver of the action indirect object and the thing acted upon direct object  (ditransitives)

Most verbs that are complemented by an indirect and direct objects, can be restated with the indirect object as a prepositional phrase. (But not: tell, ask, cost, save, etc.)

Some verbs are complemented by a noun as the object of a prepositional phrase, but not as the direct object. In this case the "receiver" is the direct object rather than the indirect object of the clause. (Huddleston 251, 312)

Diagram: You bought me a gift. diagram: You bought a gift for me. Thank you for giving me a gift.

Clause; Subject / Predicate; Finite / Nonfinite; NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Comp – complement; Detdeterminer; PP – prepositional phrase; P – preposition; Sub – Subordinator

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Indirect Object Placement

writer
 

 

An indirect object (me) or a prepositional phrase (to me)?

  1. Select the response from the menu that best completes the sentence.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

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finances (n.) – money; system or plan for spending money

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Practice 2

Indirect Objects – to

wedding
 
 

What is the best wording?

  1. Select the response from the menu that best completes the sentence.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

11.

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budget (n.) – plan for spending money carefully

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Practice 3

Indirect Objects – for

Commander

 

 

 

An indirect object (me) or a prepositional phrase (for me)?

  1. Select the response from the menu that best completes the sentence.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

21.


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