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Ditransitive Verbs  (verb + indirect object, dative)

Indicate the thing or person for whom the action is done

Angela brought me a book
 

 

Two Placements for the Recipient or Benficiary of the Action

VERB + INDIRECT OBJECT + DIRECT OBJECT

A ditransitive verb accepts or may require an indirect object to complete its meaning—"the noun to whom something is given" or simply "the recipient". The indirect object takes form as a noun phrase—a name (Jane), an accusative pronoun (him, her, them, us, me), or a noun (the young woman). In Latin, it is known as the dative case.

SUBJ + PRED INDIRECT OBJ DIRECT OBJ
NP + V NP NP

Angela gave

me

a journal.

Angela gave

the librarian

a textbook.

Angela found

Adam

an out-of-print book.

Angela asked

the librarian

the title.

Angela suggested

*her girlfriend  

a novel.

Angela borrowed

*him

a book.

VERB + OBJECT + PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE "TO"

After some verbs, the recipient may be restated as a prepositional phrase¹ with to or for (depending on the meaning of the verb). The prepositional phrase means the same but functions differently from the indirect object² in passive constructions. This prepositional phrase is especially preferred when the direct object is lengthy.

SUBJ–VERB DIRECT OBJ COMPLEMENT
NP + V NP PP

Angela gave

a journal

to me.

Angela gave

a textbook

to the librarian

Angela found

an old book

for Adam.

Angela asked

the title

*to the librarian.

Angela suggested

a novel

to her girlfriend.

Angela borrowed

a book

for him.

 

* not used / ~borderline usage

¹ This departs from the traditional analysis, where the prepositional phrases: to me, for me are analyzed as indirect objects.  Semantically, they are the same. (They mean the same).

² A prepositional phrase with to functions differently from an indirect object. An indirect object can function as the subject of a passive construction but a prepositional phrase cannot. I was given a journal by Angela. *To me was given a journal by Angela. (Huddleston 4.4.3)

See Grammar Notes references and sources. Also see (Aarts 4.1.3.1-2) (Huddleston 4 §8.2.1)

Also see Verbs with Indirect Objects (ditransitive) and  Intransitive Verbs – Never Passive | Transitive Complements: see Grammar Notes.

 

 

 

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Terminology

Semantic Roles, Functions and Verb Types

 

Semantic roles:

  • causer/agent—the thing (inanimate) or the person (animate) that causes the action to occur. (He sang a song. The wind blows.)
  • instrument—something used by the agent in performing the action. (He sang a song with a guitar.)  See By / With.
  • patient (theme)—the person or thing that is affected by the action of the agent; the thing acted upon. (He sang a song.)  (This page.)
  • recipient—the person (or entity) that is the receiver or endpoint of the action. (He sang her a song. He sang a song to her. ) See Ditransitives.
  • beneficiary—the person (or thing) that something is obtained for or done for. (He sang them a song. He sang a song for them.) See Ditransitives.
  • path, source, goal, and location—where the theme moves—starting-point, intermediate point, end-point. (He walked from home to the bus-stop.)

 

Functions: (uses)

  • direct object (DO) — (usually a noun phrase) the person or entity (thing, concept, etc.) that undergoes the action expressed by the predicate.  (He sang a song.)
  • indirect object (IO) — (usually a noun phrase) the people or things that carry the semantic role (meaning) of goal (location), recipient (receiver), beneficiary of (one who receives the benefit of or enjoyment) an action or event. goal—The teacher sent the students home. [to]; recipient—The teacher gave Jason a book. [to]; beneficiary—The teacher saved Jason a book. [for]

Verbs types:

  • dynamic verb – a verb in which an action takes place. (This is not a static/stative verb or copular verb "be".)
  • static verb – (stative verb) a verb that is not dynamic; no action takes place (e.g., be, seem, appear, etc.) 
  • intransitive verb – a verb that does not take an object as its complement (and cannot be passive). (e.g., He lies down.)
  • transitive verb – a verb that takes an object as its complement. (e.g., He lay the baby down.)

 

Pronoun Forms:

  • nominative—a pronoun form used when it is the subject of the verb: I, we, she, he, they;
  • accusative—a pronoun form used when it is the object of the verb: me, us, her, him, them.

 

Also see Aarts 4.1.3.1-2 or Huddleston 4 §8.2.1 as referenced in Grammar Notes (below).

 

 

 

Verbs with Two Objects

Recipient is either IO or Prep Phrase (to)

A letter
 

 

Two Forms—Indirect Object and Prepositional Phrase (to)

INDIRECT OBJECT

The indirect object is the recipient—the person or entity that receives something from the situation expressed by the predicate. The indirect object takes the form of a proper noun, noun phrase or accusative pronoun.      

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE

Alternatively, a prepositional phrase with to may be used. It carries the same semantic role as an indirect object, but it is not an indirect object: it cannot function as the subject in a passive construction. *To me was given a letter.

 

[I am the recipient of the information.]

 

(Aarts 4.1.3.2, 4.2) (Huddleston 4 §8.2)

 

 

Verbs —recipient is expressed as IO and to (PP)

award   They awarded him a prize. / They awarded a prize to him.

bring   They brought him a pie. / They brought a pie to him.

deny   They denied him a place. / They denied a place to him.

feed   They fed him a pie. / They fed a pie to him.

give   They gave him a prize. / They gave a prize to him.

hand   They handed him a prize. / They handeda prize to him.

kick   They kicked him the ball. / They kicked the ball to him.

leave¹   My father left me his house. / My father left his house to me.

lend   They lent him some money. / They lent some money to him.

offer   They offerred him a job. / They offerred a job to him.

owe   They owed him some money. / They owed some money to him.

pass   They passed him the ball. / They passed the ball to him.

post   She posted him a note. / She posted a note to him.

promise   They promised him a job / They promised a job to him.

read   They read him a paragraph. / They read a paragraph to him.

roll   He rolled us the ball. / He rolled the ball to us.

sell   They sold him a car. / They sold a car to him.

send   They sent him a message. / They sent a message to him.

serve   They served him a meal. / They served a meal to him.

show   They showed him a picture. / They showed a picture to him.

sing   He sand me a song. / He sang a song to me.

take   They took him his phone. / They took his phone to him.

teach   They taught him slang. / They taught slang to him.

tell   They told him a lie. / They told a lie to him.

throw   They threw him a ball. / They threw a ball to him.

write   They wrote him a message. / They wrote a message to him.

 

¹ left –bequeath (give to someone at a future time after one's death)

² sing to someone – direct the message of the song to someone

 

 

 

 

 

Verbs with Two Objects

Recipient expressed as IO or Recipient or Prep Phrase (to)

 

 

 

Verbs —recipient is expressed as IO (only) or to (PP only)

A. INDIRECT OBJECT – ONLY

A. INDIRECT OBJECT – ONLY

allow   My doctor allows me one sweet per day.

ask   My friend asked me a question. 

bet   My friend bet me ten dollars. 

charge     My friend charges me nothing. 

cost     The book cost me twenty dollars. 

fine     The judge fined him $100. 

save     My friend saved me a lot of time. 

spare  She spared me the pain of breaking up.

tax     They taxed us $5,000. 

tip     He tipped them 15%. 

wish     My friend wishes me good luck. 

B.   PREPOSITIONAL "TO" PHRASE – ONLY

B.  PREPOSITIONALPHRASE "TO" – ONLY

announce   He announces the plan to us.

narrate  He is narrated the story to us.

confess   He confessed his plan to the agent.

refer  He referred a new patient to the Dr. Lang.

contribute   I contributed money to them for aid.

prove  He is proving the theory to us.

convey   They conveyed their sympathies to her.

return  He returned the book to his professor.

declare   He declared his intentions to her.

report  He is reporting the plan to us.

describe  She describes the plan to us.

say  She says the words to us.

deliver   He delivered the letter to his family.

speak  She speaks the words to us.

donate   He donated money to them.

submit  He submitted his plan to his coworkers.

explain   He explained the problem to the us.

suggest  She suggested the ideat to everyone.

introduce  She introduces the plan to us.

transfer  Lulu transferred the package to Mr. Lee. 

mention  He is mentioning the plan to us.

 
 

Related page: Say / Tell  |  Said Synonyms  

 

 

 

 

Verbs with Two Objects

Beneficiary is either IO or Prep Phrase (for)

 

 

 

Two Forms—Indirect Object and Prepositional Phrase (for)

INDIRECT OBJECT

With some verbs such as bought, the beneficiary of the action can be expressed as indirect object. (beneficiary—the person or entity that benefits from the situation expressed by the predicate)                                                                                          

SUBJ PRED IO DO
NP V NP NP

My friend

bought

me  

a present.

PREP PHRASE: FOR + NP

Alternatively, a prepositional phrase with for may be used. ¹It carries the same semantic role (meaning) as an indirect object, but it is not an indirect object: it cannot function as the subject in a passive construction.*For me was bought a present. 

SUBJ PRED DO COMP
NP V NP PP

My friend

bought

a present 

for me.

 

 

 

 

Other verbs in this pattern IO/PP (for)

INDIRECT OBJECT

Here, the indirect object is the beneficiary—the person or entity that benefits from the situation expressed by the predicate. It takes form as a proper noun, noun (phrase) or accusative pronoun.                    

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE—"FOR"

Alternatively, a prepositional phrase with for followed by a proper noun, noun phrase or object pronoun may be used. The propositional phrase with for indicates the beneficiary, person who benefits or enjoys the action.

[I benefit from, enjoy or will use the item.]

 

 

 

 

Verbs —recipient is expressed as IO or for (PP)

bake   He baked me a cake. / He baked a cake for me.

build   He built them a playhouse. / He built a playhouse for them.

buy   She bought me some ice cream. / She bought some ice cream for me.

cook   She cooked them dinner. / She cooked dinner for them.

design   The architect designed them a house./ He designed a house for them.

do  She did me a favor. / She did a favor for me.

get  She got me a job. / She got a job for me.

find  She found us a home. / She found a home for us.

hire   He hired us a new driver.. / He hired a new driver for us.

leave¹   The agent left us a new proposal. / The agent left a new proposal for us.

make The made me a costume. / They made a costume for me.

prescribe  She prescribed me some medicine. / She prescribed some medicine for me

rent  He rented me a house. / He rented a house for me.

save  They save me a seat at the concert. / They saved a seat for me.

sing  The singer sang us his new song. / He sang his new song for us.

write  She wrote the President a letter.. / She wrote a letter to the President.

 

¹ left – let something stay behind for someone's benefit  He left some papers for us.; left – accidentally forget something He left his phone at home.

² (1) sing for someone – the listener enjoys the song (benefits); (2) the singer sings in place of another person who is unable to do so.

(Aarts 4.1.3.2, 4.2) (Huddleston 4 §8.2)

 

 

 

Verbs with Two Objects

Recipient is Prep Phrase (for)

 

 

 

One Form—Prepositional Phrase (for)

INDIRECT OBJECT

With some verbs such as open, the recipient of the action cannot be expressed as indirect object.

SUBJ PRED IO DO
NP V NP NP

My friend

opened  

*me

a letter.  

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE—"FOR"

The recipient or receiver is expressed as a prepositional phrase with for.                                              

SUBJ PRED DO COMP
NP V NP PP

My friend

opened  

a letter

for me.  

 

 

Other verbs in this pattern

INDIRECT OBJECT

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE—FOR

 

 

 

Verbs —recipient is expressed as for (PP)

acquire      Our parents acquired the property for us..

answer      He is answering the question for me.

borrow     They borrowed a car for us to use.

cash   He cashed a check for me

close  They closed the doors for us.

collect      The boy collected the eggs for us.

compose     They composed a birthday song for her.

(ex)change  He exchanged the shoes for me.

fabricate     They fabricated a new design for the company.

obtain      He obtained permission for us to enter.

open He opened an account for me

perform  He performed the scene for us.

pronounce  He pronounced the word for me.

recover  The police recovered the stolen painting for us..

retrieve  The dog retrieved the newspaper for his owner.

withdraw  The man withdrew the money for his parents.  

 

 

 

 

 

Indirect Object as Sole Object

When the "recipient" is the sole object in a clause

 

When a clause has one object, that object is always called direct object, even when its meaning is that of  receiver or beneficiary of the action.  That is, an indirect object is found only in combination with a direct object.

With such verbs, the receiver "is most directly associated with the verb" and is, therefore, called the direct object of the clause.  He hit me with a stick.  He blamed me for the accident. He excused me for the offense. (Huddleston 251, 281)

 

Buy vs. Thank

BUY

The verbs buy and thank differ in the words that complement each of them.  Buy is complemented by a direct object (the person or thing being acted upon) and optionally an indirect object (the receiver or beneficiary of the action).  Note that either the direct or indirect object could be e subject of the passive sentence.  (Swan 6.10)

SUBJ + PRED IO DO
NP + V NP NP

You bought

me  

a gift.

S – V DO PP

You bought

a gift  

for me.

THANK

On the other hand, thank is complemented by a direct object and optionally: the preposition for + noun (the gift), an adverb phrase (very much), or a gerund clause (for giving me...) 

S – V †DO COMP (optional)
NP + V NP NP

(I) Thank

you.  

 

(I) Thank

the gift 

*to/for you   

She thanks

you

for the gift. (PP)

He thanks

you

very much. (AdvP)

(I) Thank

you   

for giving me a gift. (GER)

 

† Note that you is the direct object.  Typically the receiver or beneficiary is the indirect object.  However, when there is no indirect object, the receiver of the action is the direct object. (Huddleston 251, 281) 

Also see Thank you for -ing. for similar verbs.

 

 

 

Placement Exceptions

Short Pronouns & Lengthy Objects

 

 

 

Placing heavier content at the end

IT / THEM

When the direct object is a personal pronoun like it or them, the indirect object is restated as a prepositional phrase at the end of the clause.

Will you please give me it? ⇒ Will you please give it to me.

 I am showing my family them. ⇒ I am showing them to my family.

 

LENGTHY OBJECTS

Speakers often prefer to state the recipient as an indirect object rather than a prepositional phrase If the direct object is lengthy (if the verb permits) ,

Please give that purple and pink poster that you have on the wall to me.

⇒ Please give me that purple and pink poster that you have on the wall.

I will sell the television with the forty-inch screen and surround sound to him.

→  I will sell him the television with the forty-inch screen and surround sound.

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

* You bought for me a sandwich.

 

* Thank you the sandwich. 

 

~ He gave me it.

SOLUTION

You bought a sandwich for me(Place the prepositional phrase at the end of the clause.)

Thank you for the sandwich(If you include the item (noun), place it in a preposition phrase with for.)

He gave it to me.    Avoid using two short pronouns.

He gave me the letterExpand one of the pronouns.

 

* Incorrect / ~borderline usage

 

 

 

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Grammar Notes (Advanced)

Traditional & Linguistic Description

 

 

Traditional / ESL and Linguistic Description

TRADITIONAL GRAMMAR

In traditional grammar, to me and for me are referred to as indirect objects.

(Swan "Verbs with two objects" 610)

You bought me a gift.
You bought me a gift.

You bought for me a gift. / You bought a gift for me.

You bought a gift for me.

LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

In linguistic description, a monotransitive verb takes a noun phrase (NP) as its complement. A ditransitive verb takes a direct object and an indirect object as its complements.  The phrases to me and for me are categorized as prepositional phrases rather than indirect objects. The meaning is the same.

(Huddleston "Direct and Indirect Objects" 244-6, "Ditransitive Clauses" 248, Ditransitive/monotransitive contrasts" 308-9)

Recipient themes involve: (Huddleston 4 §8.2.1)

  • transfer of the item (DO) to the recipient:  give, hand, throw  ("has it")
  • an arrangement or commitment of the item (DO) for the recipient: bequeath, offer, owe, promise ("future has it")
  • recipient comes to hear, see or learn the information of (DO): tell, read, show, teach ("knows it")

to represents a recipient or locate goal: She offered the book to the library. (recipient); She took her son to the library. (locative)

 

Beneficiary themes involve: (Huddleston 4 §8.2.1)

  • beneficiaries of goods: (obtaining or creating) leave, get, acquire, make;  I'll get some water for you. (DO is yours)
  • beneficiaries of services: (performing) open, close, sing, exchange, answer:  I'll open the door for you. (DO is not yours)

Also see Aarts 4.1.3.1-2.

 

Word Categories: N – Noun; V – Verb; Aux – Auxiliary; Adj – Adjective; Adv – Adverb; P –Preposition; Det –Determiner.

Phrasal Categories: NP – Noun Phrase; VP – Verb Phrase; AdjP – Adjective Phrase; AdvP – Adverb Phrase; PP – Prepositional Phrase; DP – Determinative Phrase.

Clausal Categories: Cls – clause; F – finite clause; NF – nonfinite clause (Ger – gerund; Inf – infinitive; PPart – past participle).

Word Functions: Subj – subject; Pred – predicate/predicator; Compcomplement: elements required by an expression to complete its meaning (DO – direct object; IO – indirect object);  Adjunctadjunct: elements not required by an expression to complete its meaning (Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator); Suplsupplement: a clause or phrase added onto a clause that is not closely related to the central thought or structure of the main clause.

 

 

 

Diagrams: Buy vs. Thank

BUY — IO + DO BUY — DO + PP  THANK —  DO + PP

Verbs that are complemented by indirect and direct objects, normally call the receiver of the action indirect object and the thing acted upon direct object  (ditransitives)

Most verbs that are complemented by an indirect and direct objects, can be restated with a prepositional phrase. (But not: tell, ask, cost, save, etc.)

Some verbs are complemented by a noun as the object of a prepositional phrase, but not as the direct object. In this case the recipient is the direct object rather than the indirect object of the clause. (Huddleston 251, 312)

Diagram: You bought me a gift. diagram: You bought a gift for me. Thank you for giving me a gift.

 

 

Works Cited

  • Aarts, Bas. Oxford Modern English Grammar. Oxford UP, 2011.
  • Huddleston, Rodney D., and Geoffrey K. Pullum. "Direct and Indirect Objects." The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • ——— "Ditransitive Clauses."The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • ——— "Ditransitive/monotransitive contrasts."The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • Swan, Michael. "Verbs with two objects." Practical English Usage, 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2005.
  • "Ditransitive verb." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 21 Mar. 2012, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ditransitive_verb.

 

 

 

Practice 1

Indirect Object Placement

writer
 

 

An indirect object (me) or a prepositional phrase (to me)?

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

finances (N) – money; system or plan for spending money

10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Indirect Objects – to

wedding
 
 

What is the best wording?

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.
.

budget (N) – plan for spending money carefully

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.


 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

Indirect Objects – for

Commander

 

 

 

An indirect object (me) or a prepositional phrase (for me)?

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

21.


22.


23.


24.


25.


26.


27.


28.


29.


30.