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Direct objects are what the verb is acting on. They answer the question “who?” or “what?” They receive the action of the verb.
Indirect objects, on the other hand, receive the direct object. They answer the question “to whom?”, “to what?”, “for whom?” or “for what?” They are found only in sentences that have direct objects.
Take note: Although indirect objects answer the question “to whom” or “for whom,” when the noun or pronoun comes after the prepositions “to” or “for” it is no longer an indirect object. Rather, it is the object of the preposition. An indirect object should NOT come after prepositions like “to” or “for” even though they answer the question “to whom” or “for whom.” (English, eh?)
You can think of it this way: the energy for the action flows from the subject, to the verb, to the direct object, to the indirect object.
Notes about verbs:
Not all verbs can have indirect objects, so here’s a handy list of ditransitive verbs — action words that can have both direct and indirect objects — as well as examples of sentences that use these ditransitive verbs and have indirect objects. (You’ll notice that some of these verbs sound rather formal when used with indirect objects. Many of them can also be used in sentences without indirect objects.)
The ditransitive verb is in bold letters, while the colored word or phrase in the sentence is its indirect object.
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