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I am confused about whether in the pattern "tell sb about sth", the part "sb" is regarded as indirect object or direct object.

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According to Syntactical Analysis by Sportiche, the SB would be the recipient for the thing which is being acted when we say "tell" so yes the SB would be the direct object.

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    But then what happens with 'tell John a story'? The whole notion of transitivity is overstretched hereabouts. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 16 '15 at 23:17
  • Well the same rule applies: the thing or the object being told is the determiner phrase [a story] and [john] is the indirect object. What's missing is the subject because this sentence is a command. – Danny Rodriguez Oct 17 '15 at 10:20
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    You realise that you're calling 'John' the DO in '... tell John something' and the IO in ' ... tell John about something'? – Edwin Ashworth Oct 17 '15 at 17:34
  • @Edwin: This source specifically says that He told me the news contains both direct and indirect objects, but in Sharon told me the direct object is only implied (me being the indirect object). Dunno how that plays out with Sharon fed me [a biscuit]. – FumbleFingers Oct 31 '15 at 19:30
  • @FF I've come across an attempt to rationalise these things by speaking of 'syntactic' DO's which aren't necessarily 'semantic' ones (as with Sharon told me). A classic is 'she led them a merry dance' being classed as ditransitive by some text I can't remember. These deleted forms just don't fit well into traditional classifications. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 31 '15 at 21:19

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