An object is a noun or pronoun that is either connected to the action of the verb or to a preposition. Objects that are linked to the action of the verb can either be direct or indirect objects.
A direct object receives the action of the verb directly and answers the questions whom? or what?
- I sent the letter yesterday. (What did I send? The letter. The letter is the direct object.)
- What time did you call Alex? (Whom did you call? Alex. Alex is the direct object.)
An indirect object receives the action of the verb indirectly, as its name implies. To find the indirect object, ask the questions to/for whom? or to/for what? to the verb.
- We spoke to the teacher. (To whom did we speak? The teacher. The teacher is the indirect object pronoun.)
Let’s see some examples with both types of objects in a sentence. Notice that the order of the pronouns is often flexible. Direct objects are in bold and the indirect object in italics:
- I sent Margaret the letter yesterday. (We know from the first example above that the letter is the direct object pronoun. Now let’s ask, to whom did I send the letter? To Margaret. Margaret is the indirect object.) Alternative: I sent the letter to Margaret yesterday.
- I know she told me the truth.
- Please tell Ellie another story. Alternative: Please tell another story to Ellie.
- I bought her a gift. Alternative: I bought a gift for her.
Note that the most common sentence structure in these cases is Subject + Verb + Indirect Object + Direct Object. The alternatives given above include the preposition “to” and use the structure Subject + Verb + Direct Object + Indirect Object.
The object of a preposition follows a preposition in a prepositional phrase and answers the question whom? or what? when asked of the preposition.
- I bought her a gift for her birthday. (I bought her a gift for what? For her birthday. Object of the preposition=birthday.)