Direct and indirect objects

Direct and indirect objects

Henry gave Claire some flowers. Here the verb give has two objects. Claire is the indirect object, the person receiving something. Some flowers is the direct object, the thing that someone gives.

Henry gave some flowers to Claire. Here give has a direct object (some flowers) and a phrase with to. To comes before Claire, the person receiving something.

Here are some more examples of the two structures.

INDIRECT OBJECT DIRECT OBJECT
Emma gave Rachel a CD
I’ll send my cousin a postcard.
We bought all the children an ice-cream.
DIRECT OBJECT INDIRECT OBJECT
Emma gave the CD to Rachel
I’ll send a postcard to my cousin.
We bought ice-cream for all the children.

To or for?

We give something to someone, and we buy something for someone.
We can use to with these verbs: bring, feed, give, hand, lend, offer, owe, pass, pay, post, promise, read, sell, send, show, take, teach, tell, throw, write

Vicky paid the money to the cashier, OR Vicky paid the cashier the money. Let me read this news item to you. OR Let me read you this news item. We showed the photos to David, OR We showed David the photos.

We can use for with these verbs: book, bring, build, buy, choose, cook, fetch, find, get, leave, make, order, pick, reserve, save

They found a spare ticket for me. OR They found me a spare ticket. I’ve saved a seat for you. OR I’ve saved you a seat. Melanie is making a cake for David, OR Melanie is making David a cake.


Give + pronoun

Sometimes there is a pronoun and a noun after a verb such as give. The pronoun usually comes before the noun.

Henry is very fond of Claire. He gave her some flowers.
We use her because Claire is mentioned earlier. Her comes before some flowers.

Henry bought some flowers. He gave them to Claire.

We use them because the flowers are mentioned earlier. Them comes before Claire.