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What Is an Indirect Object Pronoun?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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An indirect object pronoun is used to replace a noun in a sentence in the position of the indirect object. Pronouns are used in sentences in a number of different positions, and replace nouns such as “man” or “parents” with “him” and “them.” The indirect object in a sentence is a phrase or word that indicates to whom or where the action being performed upon a direct object is intended. In a sentence like “I threw my book at him,” the word “him” is an indirect object pronoun that indicates the person at whom the direct object “my book” was thrown.

Proper use of an indirect object pronoun is fairly simple, but it does require that an English speaker understands a few grammatical concepts. The distinction between a noun and pronoun is important, as nouns do not typically have objective or subjective cases. A noun like “book” can be used as either the subject of a sentence, “This book is big,” or the object of one, “I bought this book.” In contrast to this, pronouns have different cases that are used depending on whether the pronoun is the object or subject in a sentence.

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A subjective pronoun is used when the pronoun takes the place of a noun as the subject, such as the word “she” in “She bought a book.” When pronouns are used as the object, then the objective case is used such as “her” in “I know her,” or the word “them” in “The dog scared them.” In these examples, the objective pronouns used are direct objects in the sentences; the pronouns are the object upon which the action of the sentence is being taken.

Simple sentences often have no object at all, such as “I slept,” or only a direct object, like “I threw my book.” When an action is being performed on an object, in relation to someone or something else, then an indirect object is often used. In the sentence “I threw my book at him,” the word “I” is the subject of the sentence and “threw” is the predicate that indicates the action of the sentence. The indirect object pronoun in the sentence, “him” is part of the prepositional phrase “at him,” which is the complete indirect object.

A similar example of an indirect object pronoun can be found in the sentence, “The dog gave me the ball.” In this sentence, “The dog” is the subject of the sentence and “gave” is the predicate. “Me,” however, is not the direct object, as the action of the sentence is being performed on “the ball.” The dog is giving the ball, so “the ball” is the direct object. Even though “me” follows the predicate, it is an indirect object pronoun and not the direct object.

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