I have a question about this sentence.

She tells him what to do.

I am kind of confused on "him" and "what to do"

Would "him" be an indirect object, "what" be a noun and direct object, and "to" be an adjective?

2 Answers 2


EDIT: "She" is the noun, "tells" is the verb, "him" is the indirect object of "tells," (see Colin Fine's comment below), and "what to do" is called a "wh-clause." For more examples of wh-clauses, see this page: http://tinyurl.com/WH-CLAUSES

Note that if we ask the question, "Who tells him what to do?" we can answer with "She tells him." That is, the latter stands alone as a complete sentence.

  • I agree, except that I would say that him is the indirect object, and what to do the direct. It is parallel with She gives him the orders.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 21:17
  • @ColinFine Point taken. Thank you for your insight. Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 21:32

I'm wondering about your reason for asking the question. Is it in order to get a clarification of grammatical terms, or is it perhaps because you are not a native English speaker? In the latter case, I could easily understand your confusion.

My own opinion is that "him" in this sentence is an INdirect object (much like "She gives HIM the book"), and "what" is a relative pronoun, which is the object of the verb "tells." I admit that I have not heard of "wh- clauses" however!

  • Not quite - the clause "what to do" is the direct object. "What" is just part of it.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 23:06

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