Direct and Indirect objectDirect and Indirect object
Home » Grammar » Direct and Indirect Object

Difference between Direct and Indirect Object

Action Asks QuestionsDemandsFor Example
Direct ObjectIt receives the action of a transitive verb.What + WhoTransitive VerbShe gave Waqas a watch.
Indirect Object It receives the action of a direct object. To what, For what = To Whom, For whomTransitive Verb & Direct ObjectShe gave a watch to Waqas.
Table of Direct and Indirect Object
Direct and Indirect object
Direct and Indirect object

Definition of Direct Object

The direct object in a sentence is a noun (noun phrase) or pronoun that receives the action of a transitive verb. It follows a transitive verb; a transitive verb transfers its action onto the direct object.

Examples of Direct Object

  1. I baked a chocolate cake.
  2. Marry bought a car.
  3. The teacher assigned the homework.

In each example, the =noun that follows the =verb and completes the sense of the verb is the =direct object. Without a direct object, a transitive verb would not make sense.

  1. I baked what? =chocolate cake.
  2. Marry bought what? =a car.
  3. The teacher assigned what? =homework.

If we say:

  • I baked.
  • Marry bought.
  • The teacher assigned.

The sentences would not make sense without the direct object. Remember that, to find the direct object the verb must be =transitive and must answer the question =what.

More Examples of Direct Object

I stroked the dog.

“I” is the =subject, “stroked’’ is the= verb and the thing receiving the action on by the verb is the= dog. In this example, “the dog” is the direct object.

My dog suffered a stroke.

My ‘dog’ is the =subject, suffered is the =verb and a ‘stroke’ is the =direct object, it’s the thing being acted on by the verb. Here, suffered is the verb, =suffered what? ‘a stroke’ that’s =the direct object.

Every man played his role in the game.

To find the verb =played, ask ‘what’ that gives you the answer his ’role’ =played his =role, that’s the direct object.

Waqas will write an article.

In this sentence, ‘will write’ is the =verb, we now need to ask ‘what will write’ that’s =‘an article’ so, that’s the =direct object here.

Do 3 things to find the Direct Object

  1. Find the subject of the sentence.
  2. Find the verb in the sentence.
  3. Ask who or what with the subject and the verb.

    Look at these sample sentences:

Sarah likes my brother.The boys find a book.
‘subject’ = Sarah‘subject’ = boys
‘verb’ = likes‘verb’ = find
ask ‘who’ = who does Sarah like?ask ‘what’ =what do the boys find?
The direct object is =my brother.The direct object is =a book.
Table of Direct Objects Examples

Definition of Indirect Object

An Indirect Object is a

(noun phrase) or the pronoun that receives the action of the direct object in a sentence. It is the person ‘to whom’ or ‘for whom’, and something ‘to what’ or ‘for what’ is answered.

An indirect object is the =recipient of the direct object. It cannot exist without a direct object. In other words, the indirect object gets or receives the direct object. Think of it this way just like a direct object answers the question of =what or who. An indirect object answers the question ofto who” for “whom” or for “what”

Let’s go back to our original sentences and let’s insert an indirect object.

Examples of Indirect Object

I baked him a chocolate cake.

We know that the action of “baked what”? A chocolate cake… which is a “noun phrase” who is the chocolate cake for? A chocolate cake for =whom? For =him!

“Him” is the indirect object in this sentence. We could also say this sentence another way:

“I baked a chocolate cake for him.”

Here you can see the indirect object clearly, because it follows the preposition, “for.” Again, find the verb and ask the question =what or =who baked =what? = “A chocolate cake” that is the =direct object, “for whom or to whom” for =me, that is the indirect object.

  • Marry bought her mother a car.
  • Marry bought a car for her mother.

Again, if we look at the verb and ask = “what did Marry buy”? =she bought =a car, that is the =direct object, = “for whom or to whom”, =for her mother, =her mother, is the =indirect object”

  • The teacher assigns the class homework.
  • The teacher assigns homework to the class.

If you follow the rules, you find the verb “assigns”, = “assigns what”, = “homework”, = “to whom or for whom”, = “to the class”, “to the class is the =indirect object”. Now remember that it is always possible to insert the preposition before the =indirect object without changing the meaning.

Do 3 things to find Indirect Object

  1. Find the subject of the sentence.
  2. Find the verb in the sentence.
  3. Ask to whom or for whom with the subject and the verb.

Table of the sample sentences of Indirect Object:

Willa buys the friend a magazine.Mother gives Nail five rupees.
subject = Willasubject = Mother
verb = buysverb = gives
ask =to whom or for whom does Willa buy a magazine?ask =to whom does Mother give five Rupees?
The answer is =a friend.The answer is =Nail.
Example Table of Indirect Object

Comparison between Direct and Indirect Object

Look at the following examples.

  1. He gave his friend the magazine.
  2. He gave the magazine to his friend.

In both sentences, a magazine is a thing which is given, and his friend is the person who receives it.

Table of Examples Direct Object

“He gave his friend the magazine”:

Subject+PERSON (Indirect object)+THING (Direct object)
She gaveher brother  a gift.
He sentmethe email.
I showedhimmy identity card.
Jane lentDarcysome money.
I’ll offerhima scheme.
I’ll cookthema meal.
I fetchedhima glass of water.
I’ll gethera letter.
I’ll buyyoua pack of tea.
Table of Direct Object Examples

Table of Examples Indirect Object

  • He gave the magazine to his friend.
Subject+ THING (Direct object)+Person (Indirect object)
She gavea giftto her brother
He sentthe rail ticketsto his friend.
I showedmy identity the checker.
Jane lentsome Darcy.
She offeredthe candiesto the guests.
Table of Indirect Object Examples:


To sum up, a direct and an indirect object can only exist when the verb is =transitive. Furthermore, an indirect object can only exist when there is a =direct object. A direct object receives the action of the verb and answers the question of what or who an indirect object gets or receives the direct object. Usually, it is preceded by the prepositions; “to” or “for”, “for whom, for what, to whom”.

By Waqas Sharif

Mr. Waqas Sharif is an English Language Teaching (ELT) Professional, Trainer, and Course Instructor at a Public Sector Institute. He has more than ten years of Eng Language Teaching experience at the Graduate and Postgraduate level. His main interest is found in facilitating his students globally He wishes them to develop academic skills like Reading, Writing, and Communication mastery along with Basics of Functional Grammar, English Language, and Linguistics.

One thought on “Direct and Indirect Object”

Leave a Reply