Can there be intransitive verbs which take an indirect object? In the sentence "It pleases me" is "me" an indirect or direct object? What languages frequently have indirect objects in a sentence without direct objects?

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    Which linguistic framework? – curiousdannii Nov 14 '14 at 10:54
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    In English "It pleases me" is clearly a transitive verb taking a direct object. In Latin "mihi placet" is a verb taking an indirect object, but whether you call it transitive or not depends on what definition of "transitive" you choose. – Colin Fine Nov 15 '14 at 16:00
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    In my understanding indirect objects are really only used in ditransitive clauses. Maybe there's a framework which allows indirect objects without direct objects, but I'm not familiar with them. That's why we need more clarification :) – curiousdannii Nov 16 '14 at 0:44
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    @IvanKapitonov Then you'd just be making your own new framework. – curiousdannii Jan 25 '15 at 0:36
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    @curiousdannii all terms always depend on how you define them. Please elucidate how we are supposed to ask questions without terms. – user9315 Mar 11 '15 at 11:34

Serbian has something like that, if I am understanding you right. Some Serbian intransitive sentences can still have dative, genitive and/or locative arguments; an example for this would be она му[D] прича (о кући)[L] (she is telling him about the house) where there's both a dative listener му (to him) and a locative topic о кући (about the house).

We are certain that neither of these is a direct object because 1) neither is in either the genitive or the accusative (Serbian DOs must be in either one of those cases) and 2) neither can be made into the subject of a passive verb form: sentences such as *он је причан о кући (he is told about the house) and *кућа је причана њему (the house is told to him) do not work and sound quite ungrammatical. The only passive sentences these two arguments could fit in would be in the spirit of причано му[D] је (о кући)[L] (it was talked to him about the house) and those kinds of sentences still retain both the locative and dative arguments.

Furthermore, it is possible to add an accusative into the example sentence, thus for example giving: она му[D] прича причу[A] (о кући)[L]. Such a sentence can easily be turned into a passive one, giving f.e. причана му[D] је прича[N] (о кући)[L] where the former accusative argument "причу" becomes a nominative argument "прича" in accordance with general passivisation patterns in nominative languages.

The only way these sentences could be analysed as including a direct object would be to analyse them as having a dropped or implied accusative argument, which is otherwise unheard of in Serbian.

This also has a parallel in sentences with a non-nominative subject; a sentence with a genitive, accusative or dative subject is usually intransitive, but can also have additional arguments that do not serve as direct objects.

With a genitive subject, these are most often sentences in the mould of нема нам[D] посла[G] (there's no job for us) or have an experiencer (such as тебе[G] ме[G] је срамота it's you who I'm ashamed of; this sentence has two genitive arguments). With a dative subject, they are usually those with experiencers, such as хладно му[D] је (he feels cold, more directly it's cold to him). With an accusative subject, they also usually are with experiencers, such as жао ми[A] је детета[G] (I feel sorry for the child).

Such sentences with non-nominative subjects and additional arguments but without a DO still cannot be passivised. They'd give sentences like *посао нам нема, *срамотан сам тебе and *жао сам те; these sound utterly wrong and ungrammatical. The closest equivalents would have to use different verbs or phrasings for that, giving немамо посла (we don't have a job), тебе се срамотим (it's you who I'm ashamed of), and жалим дете (I pity the child), which are all sentences with DOs and a dropped pronominal subject.

  • жао ми[A] је детета[G] - 'mi' is here dative, not accusative - the A is 'me'. – user4747 May 14 '18 at 16:49

Under the traditional interpretation of the terms 'transitive' (= capable of taking a 'direct object') and 'intransitive' (= not allowing a 'direct object'), the answer is 'Yes'. Spanish is a case in point. In Spanish sentences parallel to It pleases me, such as (1) or (2)

  1. El discurso del Rector ME/NOS/TE/OS/LE/LES gustó.

  2. ME/NOS/TE/OS/LE/LES gustó el discurso del Rector.

the clitic pronominals are in the dative case and, in Spanish, where, contrary to Modern English, the dative/accusative contrast remains relevant, must be analysed as indirect objects (and, of course, cannot be converted into subjects of passive sentences, etc.). This fact does not show when the clitics are first or second person, as in that case the Spanish dative and accusative forms are, as in English, also homonymous and indistinguishable (i.e., me/nos, te/os), but it does show very clearly when the clitics are third person: LE/LES gustó el discurso del Rector (with dative clitics > indirect objects) are fine, but LO/LA/LOS/LAS gustó el discurso del Rector (with accusative clitics > direct objects) are terrible.

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    (+1 if I could vote) A mí me gusta mucho ese explicación. There is also the Hebrew existential /yeʃ/ used for possession as in /yeʃ li/ 'I have', lit. 'There is to me'. And many English "flip predicates" like sound as in That sounds odd to me. – john lawler in exile Mar 2 '15 at 19:28

Latin uti "to use" takes an ablative complement: aratro utor "I am using a plow".

  • It may have the ablative case, but what evidence is there that it is an indirect object? – curiousdannii Jan 25 '15 at 0:37
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    The fact that it is not in the accusative case (the case normally associated with direct objects). – user8017 Jan 25 '15 at 1:10

Yes, of course. In German, for example, the verb "helfen" (to help) is intransitive: "ich habe ihm geholfen" (I helped him). It takes an indirect object (dative) that can't be passivized.

Turkish has many verbs with so-called noncanonical (indirect) objects where one would expect a direct object. In general, just get a valency lexicon of any language and look for frames of intransitive verbs, you'll find many slots for indirect objects.

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    @fdb What I meant is that the object can't be passivized - one can't say Der Mann wurde geholfen. The verb as such can be passivized of course. Thanks for pointing that out, I've edited the formulation. – Atamiri Jan 24 '15 at 17:02
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    It may take a dative case, but what evidence is there that it is an indirect object? – curiousdannii Jan 25 '15 at 0:37
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    @curiousdannii That is not the traditional definition. The German grammar tradition comes from Latin linguistics where it is an indirect object. – Atamiri Jan 25 '15 at 2:35
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    @curiousdannii "Tell me" is a correct English sentence, consisting only of a verb (imperative) and an indirect object. "Tell me the truth" consists of a verb, an indirect object and a direct object. – fdb Jan 29 '15 at 23:54
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    That is a total inversion of the universally accepted definition of "direct" and "indirect". – fdb Jan 29 '15 at 23:59

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