What is an Indirect Object Pronoun? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature and is completing a Ph.D. He has taught college English for 6 years.

Pronoun usage changes depending on whether a noun is a subject or object in the sentence. This can get doubly confusing when a noun is an indirect object. This lesson will let you know which pronoun to use.

Subject and Object Pronouns

We all use pronouns every day, whenever we say 'give me my money' instead of 'give David my money' or 'he is on his way' instead of 'Mike is on his way.' Pronouns are a set of words that replace nouns in a sentence, usually to avoid repetition or awkward sentence construction. 'Me' and 'he' are just two examples of pronouns.

However, we wouldn't say 'give I my money' or 'him on his way'. Those sound weird, but why do they?

What some people don't know is there are actually different groups of pronouns that are used for different situations. Two of these groups are subject pronouns and object pronouns. These differ based on whether the noun being replaced is the grammatical subject (doing the action) or object (having the action done to it).

The basic subject pronouns are I, you, he/she/it, we, they, who.

The basic object pronouns are me, you, him/her/it, us, them, whom.

As you can see, each subject pronoun has a corresponding object pronoun and the use of each one just differs depending on where it comes in the sentence. For example:

I gave him ten dollars.

He gave me ten dollars.

In the first sentence, 'I' is the subject and 'him' is the object. In the second sentence, the positions have been reversed, so we also reverse the pronouns.

Indirect Objects

So that all seems pretty simple. Use the subject pronouns when the noun being replaced is doing the action and the object pronoun when it is having the action done to it. But what about this sentence?

John and I played basketball. I threw John the ball.

The use of 'John' in the second sentence is repetitive, so I want to replace it with a pronoun. So is John the subject or object? Well, I am doing the throwing, so I am the subject. But am I throwing John? No, I'm throwing the ball, so that is the object. So what is John?

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