"John spoke to Julie" (indirect object)

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El10

Senior Member
Spanish-Colombia
I've been taught that "There must be a direct object to have an indirect object."
However, I saw the following examples of indirect objects in a video lesson:
1._ "John spoke to Julie."
2._ "The bus collided with the tree."
I don't see any direct objects in those two example sentences. So I wonder why the prepositional phrases in bold are said to function as indirect objects. Could anyone explain this to me, please? Is the direct object implied in these cases?
 
  • SReynolds

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    I don't think that these are indirect objects as such, they're prepositional phrases. Indirect objects are things like:

    I gave him the book. = I gave the book to him.
    I asked him the question. = I asked the question of him.
    John gave his uncle a lot of money. = John gave a lot of money to his uncle.
    I'll fix you a meal. = I'll fix a meal for you.
    (note that I'll fix you the car is not correct, because you do not end up owning a car as a result of the action.)

    Edit: mixed the two up, thanks, entangledbank.
     
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    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Traditionally, the term 'indirect object' was used for the underlined phrase in both of these sentences:

    (1) Julie gave the teacher an apple.
    (2) Julie gave an apple to the teacher. (or: Julie gave an apple to the teacher.)

    That's because in a different language (Latin or Greek) they don't have these two ways of saying it, they have an object in a case that doesn't exist in English. But in English, (1) has two objects, whereas (2) has one object and a preposition phrase. Only in (1) do we need to distinguish the two kinds of object, so we call them the indirect and direct objects. There is no need to talk about an 'indirect object' except in double-object sentences like (1).
     

    El10

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Colombia
    Traditionally, the term 'indirect object' was used for the underlined phrase in both of these sentences:

    (1) Julie gave the teacher an apple.
    (2) Julie gave an apple to the teacher. (or: Julie gave an apple to the teacher.)

    That's because in a different language (Latin or Greek) they don't have these two ways of saying it, they have an object in a case that doesn't exist in English. But in English, (1) has two objects, whereas (2) has one object and a preposition phrase. Only in (1) do we need to distinguish the two kinds of object, so we call them the indirect and direct objects. There is no need to talk about an 'indirect object' except in double-object sentences like (1).
    Very interesting, so you are saying that the teacher in the video is sticking to the traditional practice of calling the prepositional phrase in sentences like "Julie gave an apple to the teacher." "indirect objects" and that this would explain why she refers to "to Julie," in "John spoke to Julie.", as an indirect object as well, but that there is no need to call "to Julie" an indirect object, because there are no objects in the sentence "John spoke to Julie."? If so, what is the function of the prepositional phrase "to Julie" in 1?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    You can call it an indirect object if you like; but if you do, don't think that your original lesson "There must be a direct object to have an indirect object" was correct. It wasn't.

    "John spoke to Julie." :tick:
    "John spoke words of wisdom to Julie." :tick:

    I think that Entangledbank's advice in #2 is the best solution: "There is no need to talk about an 'indirect object' except in double-object sentences like (1)."
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I'm a bit surprised to see 'with the tree' called an indirect object. When people use that term for a preposition phrase (PP), they usually only use it for ones beginning with 'to', and (usually?) only for ones where there is a two-object alternative: that is, with verbs like 'give', 'tell', 'serve', 'send'.

    There are many other uses of PPs. They can be physical actions, transitive or intransitive:

    Julie threw the ball at John / over the wall / into the lake . . .
    Julie walked towards John / across the bridge / down the stairs . . .

    Or they can be other situations or verb idioms where there isn't any real effect on the 'object':

    Julie stared at John / thought about John / approved of John / voted for John / talked to John . . .

    We use 'to' in both 'talked to John' and 'sent a letter to John', but only the second one has a special grammatical property (that it can be expressed with two objects, 'sent John a letter').
     

    El10

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Colombia
    You can call it an indirect object if you like; but if you do, don't think that your original lesson "There must be a direct object to have an indirect object" was correct. It wasn't.

    "John spoke to Julie." :tick:
    "John spoke words of wisdom to Julie." :tick:

    I think that Entangledbank's advice in #2 is the best solution: "There is no need to talk about an 'indirect object' except in double-object sentences like (1)."
    If the statement "There must be a direct object to have an indirect object" is not correct, then I understand that in "John spoke to Julie." "Julie" might act as an indirect object, even if there is no direct object in "John spoke to Julie." But then entangledbank says that there is no need to call "Julie" an indirect object in these cases, so I still would like to know what the grammatical function of "Julie" is.

    I'm a bit surprised to see 'with the tree' called an indirect object. When people use that term for a preposition phrase (PP), they usually only use it for ones beginning with 'to', and (usually?) only for ones where there is a two-object alternative: that is, with verbs like 'give', 'tell', 'serve', 'send'.

    There are many other uses of PPs. They can be physical actions, transitive or intransitive:

    Julie threw the ball at John / over the wall / into the lake . . .
    Julie walked towards John / across the bridge / down the stairs . . .

    Or they can be other situations or verb idioms where there isn't any real effect on the 'object':

    Julie stared at John / thought about John / approved of John / voted for John / talked to John . . .

    We use 'to' in both 'talked to John' and 'sent a letter to John', but only the second one has a special grammatical property (that it can be expressed with two objects, 'sent John a letter').
    Sorry, I guess I made a mistake when I said that the prepositional phrases were the indirect objects in the original sentences. The teacher actually says that "some verbs take an indirect object that is an object that comes after a preposition." So, in "The car collided with the tree.", the indirect object would be "the tree" because it comes after the preposition "with." However, I still don't know whether "the tree" is acting as an indirect object in the original sentence or not.
     

    SReynolds

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    If the statement "There must be a direct object to have an indirect object" is not correct, then I understand that in "John spoke to Julie." "Julie" might act as an indirect object, even if there is no direct object in "John spoke to Julie." But then entangledbank says that there is no need to call "Julie" an indirect object in these cases, so I still would like to know what the grammatical function of "Julie" is.
    John spoke to Julie. contains neither a direct object nor an indirect object, so your rule doesn't apply at all. to Julie in this case is a prepositional phrase.

    Your rule only works if you restrict the meaning of indirect object to structures where there are two objects right next to each other without any prepositions connecting them (give you the book, tell you the truth). The indirect object is the first one of the two objects.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    John spoke to Julie. contains neither a direct object nor an indirect object, so your rule doesn't apply at all. to Julie in this case is a prepositional phrase.

    Your rule only works if you restrict the meaning of indirect object to structures where there are two objects right next to each other without any prepositions connecting them (give you the book, tell you the truth). The indirect object is the first one of the two objects.
    :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:
    This is certainly the only way I've encountered it all these years. (AE)

    The OP doesn't mention the source of the above-mentioned video, but I strongly suspect that it was not concocted by a native or U.S.-educated AE speaker.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    It is probably worth mentioning the history of the direct object and indirect object. Old English had clear grammatical cases, the direct object was in the accusative and the indirect object took the dative.

    Nominative: he
    Accusative: hin
    Genitive: his
    Dative: him

    The dative expressed the idea of either motion toward the direct object (I gave it [to] him) or for the benefit of the direct object (I made it [for] you)

    In Middle English the cases were lost, this meant that not only was to a preposition, it became a marker for the dative case, i.e. to mark the the indirect object.

    Thus:
    "John .......spoke....... words of wisdom to Julie."
    Nominative verb....... accusative.......... dative
    Subject.....verb........direct object.......indirect object
     

    SReynolds

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    It is probably worth mentioning the history of the direct object and indirect object. Old English had clear grammatical cases, the direct object was in the accusative and the indirect object took the dative.
    Which is still the case in German, for example. I'm washing my hair is ich wasche mir die Haare. Mir is in the dative, die Haare is in the accusative. A literal translation would be I wash the hair for myself.

    Mir (or for myself) is an indirect object in German. The original sentence could technically work even with mir omitted (practically, this particular verb is reflexive so it has to have an indirect object in the form of a reflexive pronoun). Similarly, syntactically, the English sentence works without for myself. However, it's definitely necessary to include what you're actually washing.
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I suppose we have "I work for myself." Then there is
    I sing/listen to him. I fell for her, I ran to them but these are unergative verbs.
     

    El10

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Colombia
    John spoke to Julie. contains neither a direct object nor an indirect object, so your rule doesn't apply at all. to Julie in this case is a prepositional phrase.

    Your rule only works if you restrict the meaning of indirect object to structures where there are two objects right next to each other without any prepositions connecting them (give you the book, tell you the truth). The indirect object is the first one of the two objects.
    To recap, I was watching an English video lesson and then the teacher literally said, "some verbs take an indirect object that's an object that comes after a preposition." and gave the two example sentences below:

    1._"John spoke to Julie."
    2._"The bus collided with the tree."

    When I saw those examples, it appeared to me that there were not any direct or indirect objects being used in those sentences, so I asked myself whether it was correct to call the two nouns coming after "to" and "with" indirect objects and couldn't come up with an answer; then I asked a question here. OK, Now, I see you've confirmed what I initially thought; so, in other words, you say that the teacher was wrong when she said that both "Julie" and "the tree" were indirect objects in the examples she gave. You also say that "to Julie" and "with the tree" are just prepositional phrases--which is what I thought, too. Now, prepositional phrases have different functions within a sentence, so I was asking about the function of the prepositional phrases in the two example sentences. From what I have read, I think they act as verb phrase complements, completing the meaning of a verb phrase, as in the following sentences:

    She relies on her husband.
    He listens to music.
    They approve of the plan.

    Thank you everyone.
     
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