Which is the direct object and which is the indirect object in the following sentence?

The school has given David's proposal serious consideration.

I think that "David's proposal" is the indirect object and "serious consideration" is the direct object.

Is this analysis correct?

1 Answer 1


That's correct. In English, a ditransitive verb (one that takes both a direct and an indirect object) can usually have two different word orders: S V D to I, or S V I D. In other words, "he gave the book to her", or "he gave her the book".

In this case, this is the SVID order: it could be rephrased as "the school has given serious consideration to David's proposal", which makes it clearer that the proposal is the indirect object.

  • Note that, while indirect objects are almost always human (because ditransitive verbs are mostly verbs of transfer, with three arguments), in this case it's an abstract noun phrase David's proposal. That's because give consideration to is an idiomatic variant of consider. the sentence could be rephrased as They're seriously considering David's proposal, with exactly the same meaning, but in that case David's proposal would be the direct object, not indirect. Still, this allows the Dative Alternation (give it consideration/give consideration to it), so it's indirect.
    – jlawler
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 3:12
  • 1
    In "he gave the book to her", there is no indirect object. "Her" is object of the preposition "to", not of the verb. Same meaning, though.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 17:14
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    @BillJ Depends on your analysis. "Indirect object" is a term that's used in a lot of different ways, and I've heard people say that "her" is the indirect object of the verb, or that the PP "to her" is.
    – Draconis
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 17:50
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    The traditional account appears to be based on the fact that the semantic role of "her" as recipient is the same as in "He gave her the book". But "her" also has that role in the passive "She was given the book", yet no one would want to say that it was indirect object here: it is clearly the subject. Syntactic functions must be assigned on the basis of syntactic properties, not sematic ones. In my experience most grammarians accept that analysis nowadays.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 18:12
  • 1
    The only syntactic difference between the two states of the Dative Alternation is the order of arguments and the presence or absence of the preposition, and that's strictly local to the clause cycle they're in. If you want or need to define "indirect object" as one of the arguments in one of the two states, then you can be sure somebody else is going to tell you that, really, it's the other state that has the indirect object. Some people are taught that it's the one with the preposition; some that it's the one without; and others think the receiver argument is the IO, no matter what its syntax
    – jlawler
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 21:34

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