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Direct & Indirect Objects in English Grammar

Subject giving Direct Object to Indirect Object

Rule of engagement!

Sometimes we can have a sentence‏‎ with 2 objects‏‎. We call these the direct objects and indirect objects.

In sentences with 2 objects, the subject gives the direct object to the indirect object:

{subject} + {verb} + {indirect object} + {direct object}

I + bought + my sister + a present.

The man in the hat + took + the mechanic + the broken car.

We can also change the positions of the direct and indirect object. When we do this, we add to or for. Compare these examples below with the ones above.

{subject} + {verb} + {direct object} + {to/for} + {indirect object}

I + bought + a present + for + my sister.

The man in the hat took + the broken car + to + the mechanic.

We can use to with:

give, hand, lend, offer, owe, pass, pay, promise, read, sell, send, show, take, teach, tell, and write

We can use for with:

buy, cook, fetch, find, get, leave, make, order, reserve, and save

We can use to or for with bring:

I brought the problem to Martin.

I brought the problem for Martin.

In the first example, I let Martin look at the problem; in the second example I handed the problem to Martin – he has to deal with it now.

Useful Links

The ICAL Grammar Foundation Course – a course in English grammar.

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