I am really confused about direct and indirect objects.There are many Examples are given on internet But they only deal with two objects.

Can someone tell me which are direct and indirect objects in the following sentence?


The audience gave the soprano a standing ovation for her performance.

I think there are three objects. the soprano ,a standing ovation and her performance,

1.But how to decide which are direct and indirect ?

2.how many maximum objects one sentence can have ?

  • 1
    "He provided him some money ..." does not sound like natural English, but since "He gave him some money" is perfectly fine, I'm at a loss to explain why "give" and "provide" are different.
    – Andrew
    Apr 18, 2017 at 19:49
  • Where did you find this sentence. If it comes from a reliable resource, please include. But if this sentence is self-written. I would say it is not grammatical. Apr 19, 2017 at 3:23
  • Sorry for the incorrect sentence, But my main concern about how to decide objects, when there are more than two objects . I updated my question , now sentence seem correct
    – beginner
    Apr 19, 2017 at 5:46
  • @Andrew It is less usual for provide to take a to preposition, than it is for give to do so. But provide to is idiomatic in modern English. He provided (to) him some money.
    – WS2
    Apr 19, 2017 at 6:06
  • Thanks for editing. I think TRomano's answer is correct. Apr 19, 2017 at 6:47

3 Answers 3


The audience gave the soprano a standing ovation for her performance.

There are two objects here, the soprano and a standing ovation. The Indirect Object is the Object that comes first, and usually represents the person or thing that receives or benefits from the Direct Object. In this sentence, the Indirect Object is the soprano.

The Direct Object is the thing that is given. It normally occurs after any Indirect Objects. In this sentence it is a standing ovation.

The preposition phrase for her performance is not a Complement of the verb. It is an Adjunct (or "adverbial"). This means that it doesn't have a close relationship with the verb. The verb does not set up a special place in the sentence for this phrase.

There are several ways we can show that it is not a Complement of the verb. Firstly, we can move this phrase around in the sentence. For example, we can put this phrase at the beginning of the sentence:

  • For her performance, the audience gave the soprano a standing ovation.

Secondly we can replace the verb phrase with the words did it and still repeat the Adjunct afterwards:

  • They did it for her performance.

We cannot do this with Complements of the verb:

  • *They did it the soprano. (ungrammatical)
  • *They did it a standing ovation. (ungrammatical)
  • Great explanation, Thanks, Now it's lot more clear.
    – beginner
    Apr 19, 2017 at 13:35
  • We can check if one noun(pronoun) can be object of the verb, By putting that noun phrase just after the verb, For example , "The audience gave her performance" doesn't convey the right meaning . so "her performance" is not the object for "gave" in the sentence. But in case of "I never buy flowers for her" ."her" is a object(indirect) for buy , Because I can put "her" after the verb buy. "I never buy her flowers" So her is an object for the verb buy. Am i correct ?
    – beginner
    Apr 19, 2017 at 13:58
  • @beginner Let me think about that for a bit ... :) Apr 19, 2017 at 13:59

money is the direct object.

him is the indirect object.

for his friend is a prepositional phrase that indicates the purpose of what was given. friend is the object of for but not an object of the verb.

The audience gave the soprano a standing ovation for her performance.

The audience gave {io the soprano} {do a standing ovation} for her performance.

P.S. But if a contemporary grammarian wanted to call "for her performance" in its entirety a "secondary object" of the verb "gave", I wouldn't want to stand in his way, though I don't think such labels make it any easier for the learner, especially since many of these terms lack clear and concise definition.

P.P.S. Is the prepositional phrase with its catenated complements an object here?

For all that she has done to raise money to fight the disease, the foundation has given her an award.

The foundation has given her an award for all that she has done to raise money to fight the disease.

  • Thanks but isn't "for his friend" a Prepositional object for verb. Please look at types of object given on wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object_(grammar)
    – beginner
    Apr 18, 2017 at 18:55
  • Are you asking because you're trying to understand English or because you're into grammatical analysis?
    – TimR
    Apr 18, 2017 at 22:26
  • The OP has edited the question. Apr 19, 2017 at 6:48

Grammar is not the issue.

As ever, the only issue is whether the sentence can be understood. If we take the sentence He provided him money for his friend, it cannot be understood, because it contains ambiguity.

Please bear in mind that those rules which textbooks describe as English grammar are really only a set of broad guidelines (which don't always apply), and be aware too that they were only invented in order to teach foreigners how to speak English.

The English don't learn these rules, and we generally have no idea what rules textbook writers have invented to try to describe how English works. English is really an illogical structure, very ad hoc, not really susceptible to being written down as a few simple rules.

For example, the sentence mentioned above is simply ambiguous, as it contains too many prepositions: he, him and his.

By the time you have reached the third of them, the sentence has no meaning, because the third one could apply to either of the previous two, each of which means a different person.

Now, I have no idea whether any so-called rule of grammar has been violated here; but I do know a meaningless sentence when I hear one.

Don't worry too much about objects: a sentence doesn't need one. Jesus wept is a valid sentence, but it's only got a subject (Jesus) and a verb (to weep). Object is an optional element, not an essential one.

Here, the verb is to provide, so simply ask yourself: what was provided? Whatever it was is bound to be the object. Here, it's money.

Whatever else appears in the sentence can't be the object.

To make a (valid) point, I gave an example that shows there are no hard and fast rules, but - in general - a sentence has a verb, a subject, and an object.

He provided him (with) money is a valid sentence: it has a verb (to provide), something which was provided (money) is the object, and someone by whom it was provided (he) is the subject.

For your soprano, ask yourself:

a) What is the verb? Obviously, 'to give' (gave).

b) What was given? Obviously, a standing ovation (the object).

c) Who gave it? Obviously, the audience (the subject).

Your clue is this: The audience gave a standing ovation is a valid sentence. And that is the test to apply: can the three elements you've identified (verb, subject, and object) be combined to make a valid sentence? If they can (without violating the meaning of the entire sentence being considered!) then you have correctly identified them.

The other questions you can ask are:

d) Who was it given to? Answer: the soprano.

e) Why was it given? Answer: for her performance.

Neither of these two additional elements are essential, the sentence is valid if you omit them. Item d, if present, represents the indirect object (but might be omitted, and instead put into an adjacent sentence).

But the object per se (the so-called "direct" object) is always the thing which was given.

Notice how it is all based on the verb. Not all verbs will allow you to ask all these 5 questions, because (for example) not all sentences will have all these 5 parts.

But if you start with the verb, and ask questions a, b and c above, you should usually have enough to identify the key elements of verb, subject and object.

Additionally, the two commonest elements not mentioned here are the adjective (describing the object: telling you its colour or some other property it has; often this is just one word, but sometimes is a phrase); and the adverb (modifying the verb: similar to an adjective, but it refers to the verb, not to the object).

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