1

I know that in the following sentence:

I throw John the ball.

"the ball" is a direct object, and "John" is an indirect object.

For the following sentence:

I throw the ball to John.

Is "John" still considered to be an indirect object? or, instead, do we say that "to John" is a complement, but that the word "John" is no longer an indirect object?


Background (for the purpose of aiding in linguistic comparison):
I am a native speaker of English who is learning French. It appears that in French, an indirect object always starts with a preposition (and a direct object never does). For example, both "I throw the ball to John" and "I throw John the ball" would be translated as:

Je lance la balle à John

and we would say that "à John" is an indirect object. ("à" is a preposition in French, meaning "to" in this case)

I want to know, when talking about English grammar, if I can also say that "to John" is an indirect object, in the sentence "I throw the ball to John".

  • No! In "I throw the ball to John", "John" is the object of the preposition "to", not the indirect object of the verb "throw". The meaning is the same as "I throw John the ball", of course, but the syntax is different. – BillJ Jun 29 '18 at 5:35
  • @BillJ, if i'm understanding you correctly, you disagree with James K's answer below? – silph Jun 29 '18 at 6:17
  • Yes, I do. It's a matter of syntax. An indirect object relates directly to the verb, as "John" does in "I throw John the ball". But in "I throw the ball to John", "John" relates to the verb only indirectly, i.e. via the preposition, and is hence sometimes called an 'oblique'. – BillJ Jun 29 '18 at 6:24
  • @BillJ uh oh, i don't know who is correct, now! Would you be willing to write this up as an answer, to provoke the rest of the community to respond? – silph Jun 29 '18 at 8:02
1

[1] I throw John the ball.

[2] I throw the ball to John.

In [1] "John" is indirect object. But in [2] John is object of the preposition "to", not the indirect object of "throw".

It's a matter of syntax. An indirect object relates directly to the verb, as "John" does in [1]. But in [2] "John" relates to the verb only indirectly, i.e. via the preposition, and hence is sometimes called an 'oblique'.

“John” is of course the recipient in [2], just as he is in [1], and traditional grammar does call him the indirect object. But "John" also has the role of recipient in the passive "John is thrown the ball", yet no one would want to say that he was indirect object here: he is clearly the subject.

Syntactic functions must be assigned on the basis of syntactic properties, not sematic ones. In my experience most grammarians accept that analysis nowadays.

It all boils down to traditional grammar vs modern grammar, the latter being more accurate and logical.

0

Yes, sometimes the word functioning as in indirect object appears in a prepositional phrase, usually with "to" or "for" See grammar bytes article on this.

French is different, derived from Latin, it uses the preposition to mark what would be dative case in Latin. In Old English, the dative case merged with the accusative case, and then cases were almost entirely dropped. Modern English uses, for example "him", which comes from the Old English dative. In modern English word order defines which is a direct and which is an indirect object.

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