How to Use Indirect Objects in Sentences

By Geraldine Woods

Say your English grammar teacher asks you to define an indirect object. You can really impress her by telling her that it is a complement and is considered indirect because the action doesn’t flow directly to it. Read this sentence, in which the indirect object is italicized:

Knowing that I’m on a diet, my former friend sent me six dozen chocolates.

The action is sent. My former friend performed the action, so friend is the subject. What received the action? Six dozen chocolates. Chocolates is the direct object. That’s what was sent, what received the action of the verb directly. But me also received the action, indirectly. Me received the sending of the boxes of chocolate. Me is called the indirect object.

The sentence pattern for indirect objects is subject (S)–action verb (AV)–indirect object (IO)–direct object (DO). Notice that the indirect object always precedes the direct object: S–IO–DO. Here are a few sentences with the indirect objects italicized:

Gloria will tell me the whole story tomorrow. (will tell = verb, Gloria = subject, story = direct object)

As a grammarian, I should have given you better sample sentences. (should have given = verb, I = subject, sentences = direct object)

Ella sent Larry a sharp message. (sent = verb, Ella = subject, message = direct object)

The crooked politician offered Agnes a bribe for dropping out of the senate race. (offered = verb, politician = subject, bribe = direct object)

Similar to clerks in a shoe store, indirect objects don’t appear very often. When indirect objects do show up, they’re always in partnership with a direct object. You probably don’t need to worry about knowing the difference between direct and indirect objects (unless you’re an English teacher). As long as you understand that these words are objects, completing the meaning of an action verb, you recognize the basic composition of a sentence.