Verbs with Two Object Patterns

Many English verbs can be followed by a direct and an indirect object. A number of these verbs have two patterns: one with to and one without to.

When a verb is followed by two nouns (V N1 N2), N1 is the indirect object and N2 is the direct object.

                  IO        DO
John gave Mary a present.

With many verbs the indirect object can follow a prepositional phrase with to, and the order of the two objects is reversed.

                  DO          IO
John gave a present to Mary. (NOT John gave to Mary a present.)

This phenomenon is called the dative alternation and both forms are possible only with animate indirect objects. With inanimate indirect objects only the to-form can be used:1

John sent the package to France. (NOT John sent France the package.)

Here is a list of common verbs which can be used with and without to:

assign
award
bring
fax
feed
give
grant
hand
lend
loan
mail
offer
owe
pass
promise
pay
read
serve
show
sell
send
show
sing
take
teach
tell
throw
wire
write

Another group of verbs uses this same pattern with for instead of to.

                   IO       DO
Mary made John a cake.
                   DO        IO
Mary made a cake for John. (NOT Mary made for John a cake.)

Here is a list of common verbs which can be used with and without for:

bake
book
build
buy
cook
do (a favor)
find
get
knit
make
order
play
pour (a drink)
prepare
reserve
sing

1Michele I. Feist and Dedre Gentner, "Factors Involved in the Use of In and On," PDF Document, footnote, p. 2.


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This page was last modified on 05/14/10

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