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Reading a text I have seen the following:

A man and two girls he gave a lift to.

But doesn't this mean that I can say "give a lift to"?

What about this:

I gave my friend a lift.
I gave a lift to my friend.

Dictionary says "give sb a lift". But then I dont understand the "to" (A man who I gave a lift to - would not work without to?)

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The second and third example have nothing to do with lift and everything to do with give. Check out en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ditransitive_verb. The first example has little to do with anything as it stands, because it's incomplete. The to could be part of something else entirely. Quote the entire sentence. –  RegDwigнt Sep 17 '12 at 13:43
    
Why should "give a lift to" be equivalent to "give lift to"? "A lift" is specific; "lift" is general. Why do you think you can say "give lift to"? –  Andrew Leach Sep 17 '12 at 14:31
    
@Andrew Leach What? I am asking whether the following are equivavlent and correct: "give sb a lift" and "give a lift to sb".. –  PoTros Sep 17 '12 at 14:42
    
Your question says But doesn't this mean that I can say "give lift to"? and A man who I gave lift to. Not "a lift". –  Andrew Leach Sep 17 '12 at 14:46
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PoTros: you can't assume from the context that a missing article (a) is or isn't missing because it's a typo or because it's a different usage. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Sep 17 '12 at 14:51
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3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The question seems to be about the use of to and the differing word order when a verb such as give is followed by both a thing and someone who receives or benefits from it. As the examples show, two constructions are possible in such a situation. The recipient can be expressed as an indirect object, as in I gave my friend a lift. Alternatively, it can be expressed in a prepositional phrase, as in I gave a lift to my friend. In the latter case, the prepositional phrase follows the direct object. In the former case, the indirect object precedes the direct object.

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This is a classic transformation allowed in English for some verbs. You can say:

I gave a book to her.

and

I gave her a book.

They are equivalent in meaning (with different emphasis).

You cannot say 'I gave a book to.' all by itself; the preposition 'to' needs an object here. There are some verbs, called phrasal verbs that have prepositions without objects.

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A man who I gave a lift to - would not work without to?

Though the versions with to are far more common, relative clauses and reduced relative clauses (where the that, who or whom etc is elided) may be used with or without the preposition to, corresponding to both variants of this 'dative transformation' (using this term as a syntactic label rather than examining the nature of giving) :

'A 59-year-old accused of raping a woman he gave a lift to has been ...'

'I know of one woman he gave a lift home from rural areas ...'

'The board also concluded his remarks to the boy he gave a lift “certainly appears to be ... " ' (all Google).

ALSO, one cannot simply say that 'a verb undergoes / does not undergo the dative transformation':

Give with its normal meaning certainly enters ditransitive constructions:

He gave a heavy parcel to the woman.

He gave the woman a heavy parcel. [ditransitive version]

So does take:

He took a selection of magazines to his friend in hospital.

He took his friend a selection of magazines.

[Even here, He took his friend in hospital a selection of magazines sounds clumsy.]

With different senses, perhaps involving more fossilised constructions, one or other of the alternatives may not be considered grammatical:

He gave her a withering look. [gave is used delexically here]

*He gave a withering look to her.

*He took the party a couple of bottles of wine. [took is used in the sense took along here]

He took a couple of bottles of wine to the party.

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