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Direct and Indirect Objects Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 22, 2011

Direct and Indirect Objects

A sentence is made up of words, a statement is made in words....

Statements are made, words or sentences are used.

JOHN LANGSHAW AUSTIN (1911–1960)

BRITISH PHILOSOPHER

In this lesson, you will learn how an object is often necessary to complete a basic sentence containing an action verb. Objects also make sentences more meaningful to readers and listeners.

A direct object is the noun or pronoun that is receiving the action from the action verb in the sentence. Finding direct objects in a sentence is simple: They answer whom? or what? about the action verb.

Kicked what? [the] ball.
Took whom? Sara.

There can also be more than one direct object in a sentence. As with compound subjects and compound predicates, when the direct objects share one or more of the same verbs in the sentence, they are called compound direct objects.

Who planted? David is the subject. Planted what? An apple tree and a lemon tree are the direct objects.

Who plays? Nathan is the subject. Plays what? Tennis and soccer are the direct objects.

As well, sentences that have a direct object may also contain an indirect object. An indirect object is directly related to the direct object; it tells who or what is the recipient of the direct object. You cannot have an indirect object in a sentence without having a direct object first. To identify an indirect object in the sentence ask to or for whom? or to or for what? after the action verb. For example:

Who showed? Steven did; thus, he is the subject. Showed what? An iguana; thus, it is the direct object. Showed (an iguana) to whom? Cory; thus, he is the indirect object.

Who baked? Kayla did; thus, she is the subject. Baked what? A cake; thus, it is the direct object. Baked (a cake) for whom? Schneider; thus, he is the indirect object.

Tip

Indirect objects are always found between the verb and the direct object. Be careful not to mistakenly identify an object of a preposition (OOP) as a direct object:

Even though Donna answers to whom Margaret sent the postcard, in this sentence, Donna is an OOP, not an indirect object.

Here, there is no prepositional phrase, and Donna is the indirect object receiving the direct object, the postcard.

A grammar exercise for this concept can be found at

Direct and Indirect Objects Practice Exercise.

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