Anybody who has spent very much time learning
English knows that there aren't too many rules
without an exception.
So, when you've come this far and think you understand
the rule, it's natural to ask yourself: are there exceptions?
And the answer is:
First, it's possible to move the indirect object to
after the direct object, using a preposition like
"to" or "for."
One reason we do this is to make our language
Using the same order all the time can get repetitive
or boring to the reader.
Some examples of moving the indirect object:
(The indirect object is blue, the direct object is green, and
the preposition is red)
I gave my mom my keys.
==> I gave my keys to my mom.
Susanne knit her boyfriend a sweater.
==> Susanne knit a sweater for her boyfriend.
We made my brother a present.
==> We made a present for my brother.
I sent Lucille to the doctor for professional advice.
If you didn't grow up speaking English, you may have a
problem with sentence order when you speak English.
In German, for example, it's possible to move the
words around in a sentence.
In English, however, about all the variety
you could get out of that sentence would
be to maybe move the time to the front:
"Yesterday, I ate an apple" instead of "I
ate an apple yesterday."
That's because the order of words in an English
sentence tells us what their job is in that sentence.
So, a good place to start is looking at the
different roles that are played in a sentence.
So we'll start going over the sentence parts in
English. That will help you speak and write better.
In the meantime, you can start preparing yourself:
Do you know what a subject is? An object? It may
surprise you, but they're quite important!
The subject tells us who or what is doing the action.
In the sentence "I ate an apple" the subject is I.
In the sentence "Johnny kicked the ball," the
subject is Johnny. Johnny does the kicking.
Most of the verbs examined so far have been in the
Active Voice. When a verb is in the Active Voice, the
subject of the verb refers to the person or thing
performing the action described by the verb; and the
object of the verb refers to the person or thing receiving
the action described by the verb.
In the following examples, the objects of the verbs
are printed in bold type.
He read the book.
I did not see the balloon.
They ate the potatoes quickly.
She rode her bicycle along the sidewalk.
Do we understand it?
In these sentences, the verbs read, did
see, ate, rode and do understand are in the
Active Voice; and the words
book, balloon, potatoes, bicycle and it are
the objects of the verbs. These objects are
said to be direct objects, because they refer
to things which receive directly the actions
described by the verbs.
The direct object tells us who or
what the action is done to.
In the "I ate an apple" example, the direct object is the
apple, because it is the thing affected by the action.
In "I kicked the ball," the ball is the direct
object, since the ball was affected by the action.
Direct Object Quiz
1. I watched the birds.
2. He did not close the window.
3. She rang the bell.
4. Did you find the answer?
5. I opened the door.
6. Did she play the violin?
7. You will need an umbrella.
8. They are not carrying the parcels.
9. You organized the race.
10. Were they using the blankets?
The indirect object tells us to whom or to what. It
lets us know the DIRECTION of the action.
Remember the example "I kicked the ball"?
In that sentence, we don’t know where the ball
went after I kicked it.
But, if I say "I kicked my brother the ball," then we
know that the ball went to my brother. And my
brother is the indirect object.
Most sentences with giving or speaking of some kind
will have an indirect object (for example, "He told
me his name").
We gave the child a toy.
I sent the man the information.
In these examples, the words child and man are said
to be the indirect objects of the verbs gave and sent.
Indirect objects refer to things which receive
indirectly the actions described by the verbs. In the
above examples, the words toy and information are
the direct objects of the verbs.
Indirect objects usually refer to living things.
In the following sentences the subject is red, the indirect
object is bold, and the direct object is underlined.
I told him a joke.
(subject = I, indirect object = him, direct object = a joke)
My father gave me a bicycle.
(subject = my father, indirect object = me, direct object = a bicycle)
Susan sent Bob letters.
(subject = Susan, indirect object = Bob, direct object = letters)
You loaned them money.
(subject = you, indirect object = them, direct object = money)
She made us sandwiches.
(subject = she, indirect object = us, direct object = sandwiches)
It is possible for a sentence containing an indirect object
to be rewritten by placing a preposition before the
indirect object. When this is done, the original indirect
object can be regarded either as the indirect object of
the verb, or as the object of the preposition.
For example, the sentence We gave the child a
toy, can be rewritten as follows:
We gave a toy to the child.
In the rewritten sentence, child can be regarded
either as the indirect object of the verb gave, or as
the object of the preposition to.
The following examples illustrate the position of the
indirect object in a sentence. The direct object, toy, is
printed in bold type, and the indirect object, child, is
We gave the child a toy.
We gave a toy to the child.
When an indirect object is not preceded by a
preposition, the indirect object must be placed before the
direct object. Thus, in the sentence We gave the child a
toy, the indirect object child is placed before the direct
However, when an indirect object is preceded by a
preposition, the indirect object must be placed after
the direct object. In the sentence We gave a toy to
the child, the indirect object child is preceded by
the preposition to. Therefore, the indirect
object, child is placed after the direct object toy.
The object which is placed last in a sentence
tends to receive greater emphasis than the
object which is placed first. Thus, the word order
of a sentence can be varied in order to give
greater emphasis to one object or the other.
For instance, in the sentence We lent the
teacher a book, the direct object book is slightly
However, in the sentence We lent a book to the
teacher, the indirect object teacher is
Indirect Objects Quiz
Fill in all the gaps, then press "Check Answers" to check
She gave an apple TO the boy.
She gave the boy an apple.
1. I handed the book TO the student.
2. He wrote a letter TO the twins.
3. She made a scarf FOR the girl.
4. I told the story TO the audience.
I handed the student the book.
He wrote the twins a letter.
She made the girl a scarf.
I told the audience the story.
5. We paid the money TO the dentist.
6. He sent a reply TO the doctor.
7. We offered the job TO the students.
5. We paid the dentist the money.
6. He sent the doctor a reply.
7. We offered the students a job.
In the following sentences, identify the subject, direct
object, indirect object and verb.
1. "I sent him a letter."
Indirect Object: him
Direct Object: a letter
2. "John tells me a story."
Subject: The school
Indirect Object: me
Direct Object: money
3. "The school pays me money."
Indirect Object: me
Direct Object: a story
4. "The pizza guy brought us the wrong pizza."
Subject: the girl
Indirect Object: her father
Direct Object: a question
5. "The girl asked her father a question."
Subject: the pizza guy
Indirect Object: us
Direct Object: the wrong pizza