The Difference Between Direct & Indirect Objects in Sentence Structure

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  • 0:01 Sentence Structure
  • 0:35 Subjects, Predicates…
  • 1:29 Direct Objects
  • 2:28 Indirect Objects
  • 3:24 Importance of Sentence…
  • 4:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

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.

Sentence Structure

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.

Direct Objects

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.

Indirect Objects

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.

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