Is it correct to say "I wrote him" or "I wrote to him"? My Mother was a stickler for English grammar and would say "I wrote your Uncle..." rather than "I wrote to your Uncle..."

2 Answers 2


Write is a verb that can be used as a transfer (3-place) verb, and thus can have an indirect object, marked with to.

1. She wrote a long letter to Bill.

This can participate in the Dative Alternation, which drops the to and reverses the order:

2. She wrote Bill a long letter.

Write in this usage also allows the direct object to be understood as some kind of letter or message, since that's what the usage specifies. This leaves only the indirect object.

But the deletion of the predictable direct object can occur with either variant.

(1) above produces (3) below

3. She wrote ____ to Bill.

while (2) above produces (4) below.

4. She wrote Bill ____ .

So they're both correct, and identical, because syntactic alternations don't change meaning.

  • 2
    In American English. See Barrie's answer for British English.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 16:40
  • 1
    As Barrie and Colin point out, this is American English usage. I speak Midwestern American English and have almost no knowledge of British Englishes. Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 16:42
  • If you google "Dative alternation" you get a lot of talk about verb subcategorization. That's linguist talk for the verb's rules for what can or must or can't occur as subject, or object, or prepositional phrase, and what order everything hasta be in. Basically every verb is different, and "subcategorization" is hifalutin handwavin. Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 21:31

The practice in British English is to use write to when there is no direct object, so we would say I wrote to your uncle, rather than I wrote your uncle. However, when a direct object is present and it occurs after the name of the person addressed, to is omitted, so we would say I wrote your uncle a letter. If the direct object occurs directly after the verb, to reappears: I wrote a letter to your uncle.

  • 6
    That BrE point seems right to me. I wrote your uncle. as a standalone sentence does have a decidedly "American" flavour to it. And somewhere in Paul Simon's lyrics there's "Why don't you write me?" Commented Apr 10, 2013 at 16:12

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