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Syntactic Theory

The Indirect Object

Test for identifying indirect objects in English

  • An indirect object requires the presence of a direct object.
  • An indirect object is the NP that precedes the direct object.
    I passed Kimindir.obj [the ball]dir.obj
  • Usually, an indirect object can appear as an oblique to-PP complement.
    Note: for many grammarians, such to-PPs are also often called indirect objects.
    • I passed Kim the salt. -> I passed the salt to Kim.
    • I passed Kim the salt. -> *I passed Kim to the salt.
  • Passivization: An indirect object can be passivized, with the direct object remaining an accusative NP. If the direct object is passivized, the indirect object must appear as an oblique complement.
    • I passed Kim the salt. -> Kim was passed the salt.
    • I passed Kim the salt. -> The salt was passed *(to) Kim.

Categories and structural position

  • The indirect object is an NP in accusative case
  • It is a sister of V and NP and dominated by a VP.

             /   \
            /     AuxP
           /     /    \
        subj    /   ___VP___
         /     /   /  \     \
        /     /   / ind.obj dir.obj
       /     /   /    |       \
     NP   Aux   V    NP      __NP__
    /__\   |    |   /__\    /______\
    Pat  will pass  Kim     the salt.

Read further on other grammatical functions:

Categories: Glossary