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I Love You: A Subject-Object Valentine

Why “I love you” is the easiest way ever to remember the difference between subject and object.

By
Mignon Fogarty
5-minute read
Episode #355

Direct Object Versus Indirect Object

To a make things a little more complicated, there are two types of objects: direct objects and indirect objects.

A sentence can have both or it can have a direct object alone, but it can’t have just an indirect object alone. You have to have a direct object before you can have an indirect object.

In the sentences we’ve considered so far, all the objects have been direct objects. They were the direct thing or person being acted on. But those were very simple sentences. You need an indirect object when the direct object alone doesn’t tell the whole story. The indirect object is the person or thing that receives the direct object.

So if "Mary built an igloo" isn’t the whole story, and you want to tell us that Mary built someone an igloo. We need an indirect object. For example,

Mary built Jose an igloo.

“Mary” is the subject and “an igloo” is the object, just like before, but now you know that “an igloo” is the direct object, and “Jose” is the new indirect object. He’s the recipient of the igloo.

Martin sent Krista a letter.

“Martin” is the subject. He’s doing the sending. “The letter” is the direct object. It’s getting sent. And “Krista” is the indirect object. She’s receiving the letter.
 

Summary

To summarize, when you need to find the subject, look for the person or thing that is doing the action of the verb (e.g., the loving, chewing, building, or sending); and when you need to find the direct object, look for the person or thing that is having that action happen to them (e.g., you, the bone, the igloo, or the letter). If there is an indirect object, it’s the person or thing receiving the direct object (e.g., Jose or Krista).

Next: Practice Sentences

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.

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