Grammar Lesson: Direct and Indirect Objects

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Apr 24, 2014

The Direct Object

A direct object is a noun or pronoun that receives the action of a transitive verb (a verb that has an object) or shows the result of that action. A direct object answers the question ''What?'' or ''Whom?'' after the transitive verb.

In these sentences, the transitive verb is underlined, and the direct object is italicized.

  • My neighbor asked us an interesting question. (What?)
  • The television set required repair. (What?)
  • Tyler edited three errors in her essay. (What?)
  • They oiled the skates before lacing them up. (What?)
  • We guided him during the mountain climb. (Whom?)
  • James met Mr. Hunt in the school's main office. (Whom?)

Activity 1

Lucky Seven: Fill in the direct object with a word having these first and last letters and the total number of letter within the parentheses. The first one is done for you.

  1. The man greeted his brother (7).
  2. The baseball coach gave the man on base a s _____n (4).
  3. This bee gave off a painful s _____g (5).
  4. Pull the kite's s _____g (6).
  5. Johnson, a reckless gambler, placed a large w _____r (5) on that horse.
  6. Sylvia selected a b _____t (4) from the vegetable section of the supermarket.
  7. Seymour found his old woolen s _____r (7) in the closet.

Answers 1

  1. brother
  2. sign
  3. sting
  4. string
  5. wager
  6. beet
  7. sweater

The Indirect Object

An indirect object is a noun, pronoun, or word group that answers the question ''to whom?'' or ''for whom?'' after the action verb. An indirect object precedes a direct object in the sentence.

In each sentence, the indirect object is italicized, and the direct object is underlined.

  • Mr. Higgins gave Penny an award. (To whom was the award given?—Penny)
  • Laura gave us a challenging problem. (To whom did Laura give the challenging problem?—us)
  • Their efforts earned them a handsome reward. (Earned a handsome reward for whom?—them)
  • Can Harold purchase his mother a new home? (Purchase a new home for whom?—his mother)

Note: Remember the difference between an indirect object and an object of the preposition.

  • The comedian told her a joke. (The indirect object is her, and the direct object is joke.)
  • The comedian told the joke to her. (The direct object is joke, and the object of the preposition is her. There is no indirect object.)

Activity 2

Circle the indirect object, and underline the direct object in each sentence.

  1. Hillary's minister gave her a compliment.
  2. Lance lent me some money to attend the concert.
  3. Dad cooked Mom a delicious dinner last night.
  4. Have they brought you the newspaper yet?
  5. Will you please tell her the secret?

Answers 2

  1. Indirect object: her; Direct object: compliment
  2. Indirect object: me; Direct object: money
  3. Indirect object: Mom; Direct object: dinner
  4. Indirect object: you; Direct object: newspaper
  5. Indirect object: her; Direct object: secret

The Object of the Preposition

The object of the preposition is the noun or pronoun that follows a preposition and completes the prepositional phrase. The prepositional phrase can also include modifiers.

In the sentence, ''The orange juice box was in the new refrigerator,'' the prepositional phrase is ''in the new refrigerator.'' This phrase answers the question ''Where (is the orange juice box)?'' The object of the preposition is refrigerator. The modifier, or describer, is new.

The compound objects of the preposition are two or more objects, such as ''Mom (and) Dad'' in the sentence, ''The party was paid for by Mom and Dad.''

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