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Types of Objects


From the point of view of the sentence structure, there are three types of the object: direct, indirect and prepositional.

1. The direct object typically denotes an animate or inanimate participant affected by an action, or directly involved in an action (without being an agent or a recipient), or the result of the action: He wrote a poem. It has the following formal characteristics. It:

a) is found with transitive verbs only: All the men wore dark suits;

b) typically follows the verb, but there may be preceded by an indirect object: They sent me a telegram;

c) corresponds to the subject in passive paraphrases: A telegram was sent to me.

In some cases the direct object does not really express a participant role, but rather a verbal notion. This is true of cognate objects, which most typically repeat the meaning of the preceding verb. Verbs combining with cognate objects are normally intransitive and do not otherwise take a direct object. The object contains a noun derived from, or semantically related to, the same verb. The noun generally has some sort of modification, which carries the main new information:

He began to smile his secret smile.

He liveda long life.

He diedthe death of a hero.

2. The indirect object denotes a recipient of an action directly involved in the process, or a beneficiary of an action (for whose sake the action is carried out): Tactics can win you these games. It has the following formal characteristics. It:

a)is found with ditransitive verbs only: I’ll show youthe garden;

b) is normally placed between the verb and the direct object: They sent me a telegram;

c) may be retained as object, or correspond to the subject, in passive paraphrases: I was sent a telegram;

d) often allows a paraphrase with a prepositional object: They sent me a telegram. ― They sent a telegram to me.

The indirect object denoting a recipient of an action can be replaced by a to-phrase: We paid them the money. ― We paid the money to them. Here is a list of verbs which take recipient indirect objects. They are verbs of transferring goods, services or information from one person to another:


bring hand owe post sell teach
give lend pass promise send tell
grant offer pay read show write


The indirect object denoting a beneficiary of an action corresponds to a for-phrase: I’ll get you some coffee. – I’ll get some coffee for you. The following verbs take beneficiary indirect objects. They denote actions carried on somebody’s behalf or for somebody’s benefit:

book cash find keep play save
bring cook fix leave pour spare
build cut get make prepare win
buy fetch guarantee mix reserve write


There are two possible sequences of the direct and indirect objects:

1) verb – prepositionless indirect object – direct object;

2) verb – direct object – prepositional indirect object.

The second sequence makes the indirect object a little more emphatic. Such word order is obligatory when:

1) both objects are personal pronouns: Give it to me;

2) the direct object is a personal pronoun, while the indirect object is a noun: Show it to John.

3. The prepositional object is an object introduced by a preposition (agree on a plan). It has the following formal characteristics. It:

a) occurs with prepositional verbs (intransitive phrasal verbs with prepositions): I’m sure we can count on him, he’ll never let us down;

b) is normally placed after the verb: It is better when one does not have to rely on other people;

c) can become a subject in a passive paraphrase: We agreed on the plan. ― The plan was agreed on.

Here is a list of some prepositional verbs:

account for count on drive at laugh at reckon on take after
allow for dispose of keep to look after stand for worry at


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