Mixing up direct and indirect objects could drastically affect sentence structure. Watch this video lesson to finally learn how to differentiate between direct and indirect objects and also how to use each correctly.
In our society, writing plays a huge role with communication. Be it street signs, billboards, emails or text messages, you’re constantly bombarded with writing. In order for these communications to be effective, writing must follow a specific sentence structure. Basically, sentence structure refers to where words need to go and how you build sentences.
This lesson focuses on two parts of sentence structure: direct and indirect objects. However, in order to fully understand direct and indirect objects, we need to review some of the basics of sentence structure.
Subjects, Predicates and Objects
Three concepts you need to grasp in sentence structure are subjects, predicates and objects. A subject is the main noun doing the action in the sentence. The predicate includes the verb and all the other words not attached to the subject. Objects are the other nouns in the sentence that fall in the predicate and not the subject.
You can think of subjects as doing the action and objects as the noun or pronoun being acted upon. Let’s look at an example.
‘Katie threw Lisa the baseball.’ Who is doing the action? ‘Katie’ is doing the throwing and therefore is the subject of the sentence. The predicate then is the verb ‘threw’ and all the words that follow. What are the objects? What are the other nouns or pronouns in the sentence? Both’ Lisa’ and ‘baseball’ are objects in this sentence.
Now let’s look at two types of objects sentences can have.
The first type of object is a direct object. A direct object is the noun or pronoun receiving the action. A trick for identification is that direct objects answer the question ‘what?’. Look again at the example from above: ‘Katie threw Lisa the baseball.’ The action is ‘threw,’ so ask yourself, ‘what is being thrown?’ The ‘baseball’ is being thrown, and so the baseball is the direct object.
Here’s another example: ‘Mike rode his bicycle.’ The action is ‘rode’, so ask yourself ‘what is being ridden?’ In this sentence, the ‘bicycle’ is receiving the action and is the direct object.
Certain verbs must have something after them in order to make sense. Imagine that someone comes up to you and says, ‘Katie threw.’ Most likely your response would be ‘Katie threw what?’ You are asking for the direct object. The action ‘threw’ doesn’t make sense in that sentence unless you add an object to it. In this way, direct objects can be essential in some sentences.
The second type of object is the indirect object. An indirect object is the noun or pronoun affected by the action. Indirect objects answer the question ‘to whom?’. You can think of an indirect object as the recipient of the direct object.
Let’s look again at the first example from above: ‘Katie threw Lisa the baseball.’ We now know what Katie threw, but ‘to whom’ did she throw the baseball? ‘Lisa’ is the recipient of the ‘baseball,’ and so it is the indirect object.
In contrast with direct objects, which are essential with some verbs, indirect objects are not needed in a sentence to make logical sense. Is there anything wrong with saying ‘Katie threw the baseball?’ Of course not. Logically, that sentence makes perfect sense. By removing indirect objects, you only lose some specific details. Indirect objects are very useful when you want to clarify but are not necessary for comprehension.
Importance of Sentence Structure
So you may be asking yourself ‘Why is it important to know about subjects and objects? ‘We already saw how important direct objects are with certain verbs. Without them, the sentence is simply incomplete and meaning will be lost.
Knowing these two concepts also plays a huge role when replacing nouns with pronouns. The object position in a sentence changes which pronoun can be used. What if you changed the sentence ‘Katie threw Lisa the baseball’ to ‘Her threw she it.’ Does that make sense? No, because ‘her’ is an object pronoun, and it is being used as the subject, while ‘she’ is a subject pronoun being used as the object. It should read ‘She threw her it.’
In this way, direct and indirect objects are important in order to build your sentences for full comprehension. You cannot have a direct object in the position of the subject and vice versa. Position is very important in sentence structure and knowing direct and indirect objects will help you to build the best sentences.
To review, sentence structure refers to word position and how to build sentences. The subject is the main noun doing the action. The predicate is the verb and the other words not attached to the subject. And objects are the nouns or pronouns falling in the predicate.
Objects can be either direct or indirect. Direct objects are the nouns or pronouns receiving the action, while the indirect objects are the nouns or pronouns affected by the action. Indirect objects are the recipients of the direct objects. Direct objects answer the question ‘what?’ and indirect objects answer the question ‘to whom?’.
Be sure to think about your use of direct and indirect objects in your writing. If you do, then your sentence structure will allow your writing to effectively communicate.
When the lesson ends, determine your ability to:
- Point out the meanings of the terms ‘subject,’ ‘predicate’ and ‘objects’
- Distinguish between direct and indirect objects
- Express knowledge of sentence structure and note its importance