I’m trying to sort out verb complements (broadly defined here as any phrase that determines, completes, or refines the meaning of a verb) and the relations they form with verbs: object relation, adverbial relation, or subject relation.
I’ve always understood direct objects as phrases that identify the thing that receives or is affected by the action of the verb. (I’m not sure if this is a good definition or not.) The following are verb complements with a direct-object relation to their verb:
My mother baked a cake.
[What is baked? = a cake.]
I need food.
[What is needed? = food.]
She said that the meeting was cancelled.
[What is said? = that clause.]
I bought flowers.
What is bought? = flowers.]
The term indirect object confuses me because I don’t see these as forming an object relation with the verb at all. They have an adverbial relation to the verb, indicating the reason or purpose of the action (why) or the direction of the action. These are adverbial relations, not object relations. The so-called IO is not receiving the action of the verb; it is receiving the verb’s object. Even when the order of the word phases is inverted, the relation is the same.
My mother baked a cake for me.
[For me is adverbial.]
My mother baked me a cake.
[Me is still adverbial.]
Jim bought flowers for his wife.
[For my wife is adverbial.]
Jim bought his wife flowers.
[My wife is still adverbial.]
The company gave a bonus to the team.
[To the team is adverbial.]
The company gave the team a bonus.
[The team is still adverbial.]
My mother didn’t bake me, Jim didn’t buy his wife (hopefully), and the company didn’t give the team. None of these is an object of the verb, so why call them objects at all?
But what about sentences like these where the object of the preposition identifies the recipient of the action? Are these indirect-object relations or adverbial relations?
- She cares for her children.
- Joe apologized to Jim.