"I stole a wallet from her"

I have always known indirect verbs to be "to" someone, can a direct object be taken "from" the indirect object?

  • 1
    No: the indirect object is characteristically associated with the semantic role of recipient, or beneficiary of something. The recipient in your example is "I", which has the syntactic role of subject. In any case preposition phrases (or the NP of the prep) can't be indirect objects, though they may have the same meaning. So, "wallet" is direct object and "from her" is just a complement not indirect object, of "stole".
    – BillJ
    Jan 26, 2017 at 10:35
  • 4
    "Indirect Object" is a term invented by grammarians -- and a term at the sharp edges of semantics and syntax at that -- and every grammarian has their own definitions of it, their own sense of its place in a theory, their own way of using it in composing grammars, and their own favorite languages they use it in describing; there is no ISO standard for grammatical terminology. It varies. Jan 26, 2017 at 16:39

1 Answer 1


Direct objects are the entities in the sentence that are directly affected or acted upon by transitive verbs. So, here a wallet is the direct object of stole because it is the thing that stole is directly acting upon.

The indirect object, on the other hand, is someone or something that receives or is affected by the direct object. Consider the fallowing example:

I stole a wallet for her.

a wallet here as is previously mentioned is the direct object of stole. her is the indirect object because it is the recipient of the direct object, in this case a wallet.

Now, let's turn things around a little bit and change for to from:

I stole a wallet from her.

a wallet is still the direct object. Is her being somehow affected by the direct object? Yes, it is. So, then it must be the indirect object of the verb stole.

Does all this make sense to you?

  • 2
    Yes I agree with that. The only thing to say in addition is that in Latin, whilst to would require the dative case, from would take the ablative. But in English both are seen as indirect objects.
    – WS2
    Jan 26, 2017 at 11:11
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    -1 "Her" is not indirect object in those examples for several reasons: (1) an indirect object is associated with the semantic role of recipient, or beneficiary of something. (2) "steal" is not a ditransitive verb like, say, "give", and hence does license (permit) an indirect object, e.g. I gave her a wallet is fine, but *I stole her a wallet is definitely non-standard; (3) NPs as core complements (objects) are related directly to the verb, but an NP as object of a preposition is only indirectly related, via the preposition, and hence is an 'oblique', not an object of the verb at all.
    – BillJ
    Jan 26, 2017 at 14:51
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    Just two points. Have you read Professor Lawler's comment above? And I am not persuaded that I stole you a biscuit is totally ungrammatical.
    – WS2
    Jan 26, 2017 at 18:58
  • I didn't actually say that "I stole her a wallet" is ungrammatical - I said that it is non-standard. In any case, an indirect object is complement of a verb, not of a preposition, and that is an unarguable syntactic fact.
    – BillJ
    Jan 26, 2017 at 19:44
  • 1
    No, that's an arguable theoretical definition. One can treat prepositions as detachable crutches, as relational grammar or predicate calculus do; or one could simply append them to one side of an alternation like Dative. The benefactive case is interesting, though -- cook is no more a three-place predicate than steal, but it allows She cooked me a meal vs She cooked a meal for me (i.e, Dative alternation), even though any sentence with a volitional subject can append a for benefactive phrase (She took the exam for me; She stayed up for me). Most of them don't alternate. Jan 26, 2017 at 21:48

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