I am trying to learn about direct and indirect objects. My question is sadly very simple but I'm unsure.

In the sentence below what is the direct object & what is the indirect object?

She should explain it to me.

So I think the subject is She

Verb is explain

the direct object I believe is it and the indirect object me

Is that correct and if not why?

  • 2
    Usually when we refer to an "indirect object", it's in the context of ditransitive verbs - which can take two objects without needing prepositions, such as She gave him the ball (as opposed to She gave the ball to him, where the verb isn't really "ditransitive"). Some Anglophones would accept either or both of prepositionless She should explain it me or She should explain me it, but these are both non-standard/dialectal usages. May 12, 2017 at 15:16
  • Not quite: "it" is obviously direct object. But "me" is object complement of the preposition "to", not indirect object of the verb "explain". PPs don't function as objects.
    – BillJ
    May 12, 2017 at 18:15

2 Answers 2


In sentences like this many linguists distinguish two categories which your teacher may or may not distinguish.

  • Direct Object and Indirect Object are terms for syntactic roles. They are realized as noun phrases or pronouns.

  • Patient and Recipient are terms for semantic or thematic roles. They usually are realized either as noun phrases/pronouns or as preposition phrases.

In your sentence She should explain it to me:

  • it is both the Direct Object and the Patient

  • me is the Recipient but because this role is realized as a preposition phrase to me it is not an Indirect Object.

    However, if your teacher does not recognize this distinction (and many teachers do not), you may describe me as the Indirect Object.


Your analysis is almost correct, except that the verb (phrase) is "should explain".

  • 3
    The main verb phrase would be "should explain it to me" which includes the modal "should" and the verb phrase "explain it to me"
    – msam
    May 12, 2017 at 15:25

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