More on Indirect objects with to and for

 

There does exist a true for-indirect object relationship, but only (1) when a direct object is present and (2) when the indirect object (without for) can also precede the direct object, as in sentences (f) and (g):

(f) I picked a quart of raspberries for my mother,

which can be paraphrased as

(g) I picked my mother/her a quart of raspberries.

Generally, though not always, the verbs involved in for-indirect object constructions fall into three categories: verbs of creating, as sentences (h) and (i); obtaining, as in setences (j) and (k); and preparing, as in sentences (l) and (m). In a wider sense, they are verbs of bringing something into existence or of making (something) available. Also, in a true for- indirect object construction, the direct object must be for the benefit of the indirect object Thus:

(h) You drew your little sister a very nice horse!
(i) You drew a very nice horse for your little sister!
(The horse is for the benefit of the sister)

(j) I’ll get you a doctor.
(k) I’ll get a doctor for you right away!
(The doctor is for the benefit of the addressee)

(l) Please wrap me up two pounds of salmon
(m) Please wrap up two pounds of salmon for me
(The salmon is for the benefit of the speaker)

It is not the verb itself that determines whether the object of for is an indirect object. It is rather the relationship between the direct object and the object of for. The direct object must be for the benefit of the indirect object. Even the same verb may enter into different relationships. Contrast sentences (n) and (o):

(n) Will you please open me a beer?
(The beer is for the speaker; me is the indirect object)

(o) My hands are full; please open the door for me
(NOT: please open me the door. The door is not for the speaker; me is not an indirect object.)

Therefore, unlike to- indirect objects, it is useless to make or learn lists of single verbs that “take for- indirect objects.” If the verb is being used as a verb of “making available” through creating, obtaining, or preparing something for the use, consumption, or enjoyment of the object of for, it will take an indirect object, and that noun or pronoun may either follow for or, alternatively, precede the direct object. Otherwise, the object of for will not be an indirect object.

Marilyn Martin


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