The Indirect Object
Recognize an indirect object when you see one.
Indirect objects are rare. You can read for pages before you encounter one. For an indirect object to appear, a sentence must first have a direct object.
Direct objects follow transitive verbs [a type of action verb]. If you can identify the subject and verb in a sentence, then finding the direct object—if one exists—is easy. Just remember this simple formula:
subject + verb + what? or who? = direct object
Here are examples of the formula in action:
Jim built a sandcastle on the beach.
Jim = subject; built = verb. Jim built what? Sandcastle = direct object.
Sammy and Maria brought Billie Lou to the party.
Sammy, Maria = subject; brought = verb. Sammy and Maria brought who? Billie Lou = direct object.
To explain the broken lamp, we told a lie.
We = subject; told = verb. We told what? Lie = direct object.
When someone [or something] gets the direct object, that word is the indirect object. Look at these new versions of the sentences above:
Jim built his granddaughter a sandcastle on the beach.
Jim = subject; built = verb. Jim built what? Sandcastle = direct object. Who got the sandcastle? Granddaughter = indirect object.
So that Darren would have company at the party, Sammy and Maria brought him a blind date.
Sammy, Maria = subjects; brought = verb. Sammy and Maria brought who? Blind date = direct object. Who got the blind date? him = indirect object.
To explain the broken lamp, we told Mom a lie.
We = subject; told = verb. We told what? lie = direct object. Who got the lie? Mom = indirect object.
Sometimes, the indirect object will occur in a prepositional phrase beginning with to or for. Read these two sentences:
Tomas paid the mechanic 200 dollars to fix the squeaky brakes.
Tomas paid 200 dollars to the mechanic to fix the squeaky brakes.
In both versions, the mechanic [the indirect object] gets the 200 dollars [the direct object].
When the indirect object is a pronoun rather than a noun, putting it in a prepositional phrase becomes a necessary modification. The preposition smoothes out the sentence so that it sounds natural. Check out these examples:
Leslie didn't have any money for a sandwich, so Smitty purchased her it.
Blech! That version sounds awful!
Leslie didn't have any money for a sandwich, so Smitty purchased it for her.
Locating the indirect object her in a prepositional phrase lets the sentence sound natural!
After Michael took generous spoonfuls of stuffing, he passed us it.
Ewww! This version sounds awful too!
After Michael took generous spoonfuls of stuffing, he passed it to us.
But with the indirect object us in a prepositional phrase, we have an improvement!