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An indirect object is a person that someone or something does something to indirectly. In the simplest sentences, the indirect object directly follows a verb + preposition, so it’s very easy to see the effect that the verb has on that person.
|Regala fiori alla sua amica.
|He’s giving flowers to his friend.
|Compro un cane ai miei figli.
|I’m buying it for my kids.
Characteristics of indirect objects
- Are connected to the verb with a preposition
- Cannot be removed without altering the meaning of the sentence
- Can be found by asking "to whom?" or "for whom?"*
|To whom is he giving flowers?
|To his friend.
|For whom am I buying a dog?
|For my children.
* The person following "for" is only an indirect object when they are a recipient, as in "I bought it for you." When "for" means "on behalf of," as in "I think I speak for everyone when I say this," the noun after it is called an object of the preposition.
Indirect object pronouns
In order to avoid repeating nouns in a series of sentences or when answering questions, both Italian and English replace indirect objects with indirect object pronouns.
|Leggo ai miei figli. Leggo ai miei figli ogni sera.
|I’m reading to my kids. I read to my kids every evening.
|Leggo ai miei figli. Gli leggo ogni sera.
|I’m reading to my kids. I read to them every evening.
As you can see, the second version sounds much more natural, in both languages.
Italian indirect object pronouns
|Le regala fiori.
|He’s giving her flowers.
|Gli compro un cane.
|I’m buying them a dog.
The first and second person indirect object pronouns are identical to the first and second person direct object pronouns.
Capitalized Le is the formal indirect object pronoun to be used with people you address as Lei.
In Italian, indirect object pronouns generally precede the verb, whereas in English they follow it.
In addition, the Italian indirect object pronoun replaces both the preposition and the noun, but in English, some verbs have to keep the preposition, while other verbs have the option of keeping it.
|Mi sta parlando.
|He’s talking to me.
|Ti compro una camicia.
|I’m buying you a shirt, I’m buying a shirt for you.
|Ci regala il suo divano.
|She’s giving us her couch, She’s giving her couch to us.
Some Italian indirect objects are equivalent to direct objects in English, and vice versa.
Gli telefoniamo una volta alla settimana.
We call him once a week.
Gli is an indirect object because the Italian verb is telefonare a. However, "him" is a direct object because "call" is not followed by a preposition.
Dov’è Marco? Lo sto cercando da mezzogiorno.
Where’s Marco? I’ve been looking for him since noon.
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