Some verbs, like give and bring can have two different patterns after them:

 

Noun Phrase (Subject) Verb Phrase Noun Phrase
(Direct object)
Prepositional
phrase
She
They
gave
brought
some money
a lot of food
to the old man
for the animals
     >>>>  <<<<
Noun Phrase (Subject) Verb Phrase Noun Phrase
(Indirect object)
Noun Phrase
(Direct object)
She
They
gave
brought
the old man
the animals
some money
a lot of food

These verbs are called double object verbs. When we have two noun phrases after the verb the first noun phrase is the indirect object and the second noun phrase is the direct object.

Exercise

Comments

Consider this sentence - "She fed the alligator a cat" What's the direct object here? Since this sentence is another way of saying "She fed a cat to the alligator" you could say the cat is the direct object. But that seems off kilter when you consider what happens when you take out the supposed indirect object- the alligator. "She fed a cat" just means she gave food to a cat, not what it is supposed to mean here; that the cat was the food. To take a less predatory example; "She fed her cat fish and rice", the obvious direct object is fish and rice. But then "She fed fish and rice" doesn't stand alone, needing no explanation the way "She fed her cat" does. Does this mean that the verb feed is a stand alone verb which sort of defies the usual rule governing direct and indirect objects. Is the confusion because 'feed' can also be an intransitive verb as in "The hyna feeds on carrion"

Hi Darshanie Ratnawalli,

You've hit upon a subject that there is some argument about; some argue that it is possible for a verb to have two direct objects whereas others say there are direct and indirect objects in sentences like the ones you ask about.

For people trying to learn to speak and write English, I think the best way to think about it is to consider the verb 'feed' to have several different uses, each of which has a syntactical pattern associated with it. When it is a verb with one object, it is a direct object ('She fed the cat') (with the additional rule that the object must be capable of eating) and when there are two objects ('She fed the cat fish') it has an indirect and direct object.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Er yes. That's what I wanted to know. Which is the direct and indirect object in 'She fed the cat fish' ? if we take the obvious direct object 'fish' Why doesn't "She fed fish" stand on its own without exegesis, like "She fed the cat" does.
Ditto
She fed a cat to the alligator/She fed the alligator a cat
She fed coins to the slot machine/She fed the slot machine coins
If direct object is cat and coins respectively why don't they make complete and relevant sentences by themselves
And what are the direct and indirect obs in "She fed him information"
Is it a rephrasing of "She fed him with information" or "She fed information to him"If the former information is the indirect and if the latter, him is the indirect right?

Hi Darshanie,

When 'feed' has two objects, as in 'She fed the cat fish', the food ('fish') is the direct object and the being that eats ('the cat') is the indirect object.

When 'feed' has only one object, the object is not the food, but rather the eater of the food. I suppose in this case we'd call the eater of the food a direct object, even though it's more of an indirect object.

There may be an explanation for this apparent syntactical inconsistency, but I'm unaware of one if so. Although there is some disagreement about how language works, in general I'd say that although languages can be described using rules, these rules are descriptions of how people speak, and people speak using inconsistent patterns. One could consider this a circular argument, but in any case I'm afraid this is well beyond the level of analysis we do here at LearnEnglish.

As for 'She fed him information', the same pattern is in use as above: 'him' is the indirect object and 'information' is the direct object. I'm not sure I'd say this is a rephrasing of 'She fed him with information' -- I'd say it's an alternative phrasing (i.e. I don't think we can say one is more primary than the other) -- but it does mean the same thing.

I hope this helps you!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

This analysis is good enough Kirk. It's great you are there as a responsive resource. These kinds of inconsistencies only prove what I read somewhere, that grammar rules are just approximate models attempting to explain incompletely understood mental processes that produce speech patterns.

Hi,

Can we say: Why don’t you write a letter to explain her?

Best wishes,
Max

Hello Max,

I understand that sentence completely, but it's not grammatically correct. The verb 'explain' always has at least a direct object (e.g. 'She explained the idea') or a direct object and a prepositional phrase acting as an indirect object (e.g. 'She explained the idea to us'), but not just an indirect object (as in your sentence).

If you read the page I linked to above, you'll see a more complete explanation with examples.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,
The sentences which has double object and if the indirect object is next to the main verb,it should be skipped the proposition. Is it correct?
She told him to go home.
In here, "him"is the indirect object and" to"is the preposition.
Could I say,
She told him go home.

Hello dlis,

No, that would not be correct. The 'to' here is part of the infinitive and it is required. This is a reported command - a reported imperative - and the construction is [tell + sb + to verb].

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,
As 8th quiz,
He's buying his son his first car.
Does it sound natural?( I'm not arguing with your sentence). Could be used in general taking? Or
If I say,He's buying his son's first car.is it correct?

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