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If you have any queries, ask a member of staff.

My textbook talks about the "member of staff" being an indirect object. However, I don't see how it would be. I just wanted to double-check if it is in fact an indirect object.

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    Your book is wrong. "A member of staff" is direct object. If there is only one object in a clause, it is always a direct one.
    – BillJ
    Oct 21, 2021 at 5:48
  • I disagree. Van you cite a source for that, @Bill ? If not, perhaps you should not state that "rule" in such an absolute way.
    – David Siegel
    Mar 31 at 20:43

3 Answers 3

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It Can be Viewed Either Way

A direct object typically answers the question "who?' or "what?". It receives the action of the verb. An indirect object in turn receives the direct object. Often a sentence will take the form of {Subject} {verb} {indirect object} {direct object}. An example of this is:

John brought Sarah some coffee.

Here the subject is "John" John is the one performing the action.

The direct object is "some coffee". What did John bring? Some coffee.

The indirect object is "Sarah". To whom did John bring the coffee? To Sarah.

In such cases it is usually possible to convert the indirect object placed before the direct object into a prepositional phrase coming after the direct object, as in:

John brought some coffee to Sarah.

In that case "to Sarah" performs the same function as an indirect object. Some sources say this is still an indirect object, others say that it is not, it is just a prepositional phrase, and there is no indirect object in such sentences. I would tend to favor those who call "to Sarah" an indirect object in such a construction.

The ThoutCo page quoted below says:

The two patterns for sentences with indirect objects are the prepositional pattern and the dative movement pattern. Depending primarily on the verb, both patterns or only one pattern may be possible. In the prepositional pattern, the indirect object occurs after the direct object and is preceded by a preposition. In the dative movement pattern, the indirect object occurs before the direct object.

However the Grammarly page quoted in the Sources section says:

We could rewrite our example sentence above in this way:

Embiid passed the ball to Simmons.

This is grammatically correct and has the same meaning as the original sentence. Technically speaking, though, Simmons is not an indirect object, but the object of an independent preposition.


Now let us consider the example from the question:

If you have any queries, ask a member of staff.

"you" is the subject of the verb "have".

"any queries" is the direct object of "have".

"ask" is a verb in the imperative mode . Imperatives often have implied subjects and/or objects. The implied subject of "ask" is "you". The implied direct object is "your queries", the same queries that are the direct object of "have". that leaves "a member of staff". the staff member receives the queries. Thus "a member of staff" functions as an indirect object. It can be called the indirect object of "ask", or a verb complement of "ask". I think calling it an indirect object is more helpful. It clarifies the function of this phrase. Who got the queries? A member of staff got them.

As the page "The Function of an Indirect Object in English Grammar" from ThoutCo says:

The indirect object is characteristically associated with the semantic role of recipient ... But it may have the role of beneficiary (the one for whom something is done), as in Do me a favour or Call me a taxi, and it may be interpreted in other ways, as seen from examples like This blunder cost us the match, or I envy you your good fortune.

Consider the example from that page:

Call me a taxi.

This is, again in the imperative, and the implied subject is again "you". The direct object is "a taxi" and the indirect object is "me".

Other Sources

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  • Ah shucks, David. You told us the truth. One direct and one indirect. :)
    – Lambie
    Apr 1 at 13:45
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This is one of those cases you can argue about. I think @billj makes a good point but a direct object can be implied.

There is a good answer, which talks about this:

It can be argued that with to tell, which is normally a bitransitive verb taking both sorts of objects as in to tell someone something, can exist with just an indirect object alone.

Have you told him yet? There is an unspoken “something” that is being alluded to here, and that thing unsaid is the direct object, with the person receiving the information being in the indirect object position.

However, this analysis is not universally accepted. Others view this particular situation as one where the indirect object has passed to a direct one

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/203125/can-a-sentence-have-an-indirect-object-without-a-direct-object

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Yes, it is an indirect object, as "member of staff" are the recipient of the questions ("If you have any queries").

If you want an explanation of what an indirect object is, check out here: https://www.grammar-monster.com/glossary/indirect_object.htm

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  • Thank you so much!
    – Mike M.
    Oct 21, 2021 at 2:49
  • If that answers your question @MikeM. , please consider marking it as correct!
    – Alireza Ghaffarian
    Oct 21, 2021 at 3:16
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    @Mike M. The answer is wrong. "A member of staff" is direct object. If there is only one object in a clause, it is always a direct one.
    – BillJ
    Oct 21, 2021 at 5:46
  • @BillJ, How though? You is the direct object here, as the action is revolving around it. However, staff is the indirect object as they are not the main reference point. Oct 21, 2021 at 7:18
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    No, "you" is not the direct object. It is the subject of "have any queries", and the understood subject of the imperative clause "ask a member of staff" where "a member of staff" is direct object.
    – BillJ
    Oct 21, 2021 at 7:43

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