English Grammar

Direct and indirect object complement in English with examples

Direct and indirect complement

Sentences generally follow a basic grammatical structure, which is usually the following: subject + verb + object or complement. In this lesson we will focus on explaining what the direct and indirect object is and what its function is in the sentence. Direct and indirect object complement

Transitive verb and the direct and indirect object

Before talking about the direct and indirect object, let’s remember the meaning of transitive verbs. In English we find transitive and intransitive verbs. A transitive verb is one that cannot be used without a direct object .

The transitive verbs express actions that can not be done alone, or elements require two people: one who does the action and one who receives it . In this lesson we are interested in transitive verbs because they are the only ones that can work with the direct and indirect object .


  • give Ana candies.

In this example, the transitive verb is “give” (to give) and is accompanied by two objects or elements: “candies” ( direct object ) and “ Ana ” ( indirect object ).

What is the direct and indirect object in English?

To better understand the previous example, and this topic in general, we explain in detail the meaning of each type of plugin.

What is the direct object and how to identify it in the sentence?

It is the person or thing that directly receives the action of the transitive verb . It is also called a direct object. In the previous example, “I give Ana candies ”, the candies act as a direct object because they are the ones that receive the action of giving (I give candies).

There is a simple way to identify which is the direct object in the sentence. You just have to ask yourself the question What? (What?).


  • I see the car .
  • Question: What do I see?
  • Answer: the car (the car), this is the direct object.

What is the indirect object and how to identify it in the sentence?

It is about the person or thing that does not receive the action of the intransitive verb directly but is affected by it or the action is done for it . They are also known as indirect objects.

Indirect complements can have the prepositions “for” (for) or “to” (a) before them . They can also follow the verb directly. Also, an indirect object always requires a direct object in the sentence.

In the phrase “I give Ana candies”, it is Ana who is given the candies . Therefore, Ana is the indirect object of the sentence.

Also, there is a quick way to identify the indirect object in the sentence. This is asking yourself the question “To whom?” (To whom?) Or “For whom? (For whom?).


  • She is writing a letter for her fiancé
  • Question: For whom does she write a letter?
  • Answer: her fiancé (her fiancé), this is the direct object .

Here are other examples of sentences with an indirect object and that appear underlined in the sentence:

  • The coach will tell his changes to all the team .
  • She offered birdseed to the parrot .

Sentences with direct and indirect object

Any verb that is transitive admits a direct object. But only certain verbs in English can be accompanied by a direct and an indirect object. There are two ways to form sentences with a direct object and an indirect object : through transformation and paraphrase . Direct and indirect object complement


It is when the indirect object goes after the verb and the direct object is located after the indirect object. Follow the following grammatical formula:

Subject + verb + indirect object + direct object


  • She always writes her father letters .
  • I bought Silvia and John two cellphones .
  • Peter bought all of his best friends souvenirs from his trip to Europe .


When the direct object comes after the verb, followed by the prepositions “to” or “for” and finally the indirect object . The choice of the correct preposition will depend on the verb that is being used. The grammatical formula for this type of sentence is:

Subject + verb + direct object + to / for + indirect object


  • She always writes letters to your father .
  • I bought two cellphones for Silvia and John .
  • Peter brought home beautiful souvenirs for all of his best friends .

Reminder: Keep in mind that the prepositions “to” and “for” also have other functions and will not always indicate the presence of a direct and an indirect object in the sentence.

Phrases with direct and indirect object that have pronouns

To form a sentence with a direct and indirect object using pronouns, we follow these considerations:

If one object is a pronoun and the other is not, then we will place the pronoun first . For example, the phrase “Tell your in-laws the truth” or “Tell the truth to your in-laws”, we could well express it in the following ways using pronouns:

  • Tell it to your in-laws .
  • Tell them the truth .

On the other hand, if both the direct object and the indirect object are pronouns, the direct object is always placed before the indirect object . For this particular case, it is not possible to form the sentence through transformation. Direct and indirect object complement


  • Correct form: Tell it to them . (Tell her)
  • Wrong way: Tell them it.

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