My kids (8-10yrs) love to say things like this. It just rolls naturally out and I correct them often. Is there is a specific reason the grammar is wrong? Maybe for the brain it is more direct than saying "Let me show it to you."

Shall I keep correcting them, or is it OK for them to say it?

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    I don't see anything wrong with "Let me show you it". Structurally it's no different to "Show me your [whatever]", which is surely unexceptional. Mind you, I'm quite happy with "Let me show it you", which I've no doubt many people think is "dialectal" or otherwise non-standard. – FumbleFingers Jun 27 '13 at 15:36
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    I agree with @FumbleFingers - the sentence appears to be grammatically correct in the first place. "Let me show it to you" might seem slightly cleaner, but that is just opinion really. – Sam Jun 27 '13 at 15:40

I would advise OP not to "correct" the kids' grammar - they've quite correctly recognised the basic principle of how ditransitive verbs work, and contrary to OP's assumption, there's no generally-applicable "grammatical rule" saying you can't use pronouns for both objects in such contexts.

Take for example, demonstrative and indefinite pronouns (this, that, these, those, and some, all, both, each, etc.)...

I'll show him this
You can ask him that
Give me some

...are all perfectly normal English. It might be a little contrived, but grammatically speaking there's nothing wrong with "I'll ask this that" - for example, while pointing to a computer running Google (this) with some particular question in mind (that).

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  • Except use who anthropomorphize the computer and would say I'll ask him that ;)) – mplungjan Jun 27 '13 at 17:01
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    @mplungjan: A few days ago I tried Google "search by voice" for the first time. I spoke "How old is Jodie Foster?" into the mic, and it duly replied "Jodie Foster is 50 years old" through my speakers. My current text-to-speech configuration uses a female voice - when my brother heard it, he said "Ask her how old Isaac Newton is!". Google was too smart to fall into his trap and say "286" - it/she said he was 84 when he died in 1727. – FumbleFingers Jun 27 '13 at 17:11
  • @FumbleFingers thanks for the laugh on this dreary morning. – Cyberherbalist Jun 27 '13 at 17:29
  • @ja72: Absolutely - get them interested while they're young! I certainly don't want to overstate my position about don't "correct" this usage. It's right and proper that you should tell them you personally find this particular usage "odd/sloppy/whatever", so they gain an early awareness that not every grammatical issue has a definitive answer. If all goes well, your kids will end up really alert to such matters, and will be able to seamlessly switch "register" in many different contexts, to match the expectations of those they're talking with at any given time. – FumbleFingers Jul 5 '13 at 15:44

This seems to be an area with some dialectal variation. So I don't think there is any particular reason that accounts for some speakers' intuition that sentences like “Let me show you it” are unacceptable. And if we are describing English grammar in general, rather than the grammar of some particular subset of speakers, I would not say that it is "totally wrong".

Here are some relevant forum threads:

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  • But "he showed me it" conflicts with "he showed it me" which is the "correct" word order according to something I read a long time ago in an old English grammar book. Maybe that construction is archaic or obsolete? I can't say I've heard it in conversation. Here's a literary example from Swinburne's "Hertha": "Who hath given, who hath sold it thee, / Knowledge of me? / Hath the wilderness told it thee? Hast thou learnt of the sea? / Hast thou communed in spirit with night? have the winds taken counsel with thee?" – bof Jun 13 '18 at 2:33

You're doing the right thing by correcting them.

Because of the fact that we're able to construct sentences such as "Let me show you my toy collection," it's understandable that a child would substitute it for the direct object (my toy collection) without changing the structure of the sentence; however, because it is a personal pronoun, the indirect object must be pulled out of line and follow a preposition. (In this case, to.)

It's as if you said, "Let me show you him." Obviously, "Let me show him to you" sounds much better and is the correct way to phrase the sentence.

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    I'm not exactly sure what you're saying here, but I'm pretty sure I disagree with it. You seem to be placing restrictions on the use of pronouns in ditransitive verb constructions. Would you therefore object to, for example, "Right now I don't have that £10 I owe you, but I'll give you it tomorrow" – FumbleFingers Jun 27 '13 at 16:30
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    I'm with FumbleFingers and Sam on this. The 8-10-year-olds will grow out of it, I'm sure. Just as children grow out of their over-generalizing (e.g., "I ated the cookie"), so too will they outgrow this slightly--and only slightly--awkward syntax. Parents, "pick your battles," I say. – rhetorician Jun 27 '13 at 16:32
  • @FumbleFingers: There do seem to be some 'restrictions on the use of pronouns in ditransitive verb constructions'. There are few examples of 'allocated me it / it me' on the web, but plenty of 'allocated it to me'. '...allocated John the hardest task' appears. Again, 'chose him a book' seems fine but 'chose him it' sounds unnatural to me. I don't know of any study analysing or even merely examining these apparent idiosyncrasies. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 27 '13 at 22:45
  • @Edwin: Much depends on the specific verb involved. And, as John Lawler says here, on the specific meaning of the verb in context. Thus (to him, not me! :) "I'll dig you a clam" is "grammatical", whereas "I'll open you the door" is not. I don't often disagree with John (obviously - I'm not stupid! :), but in this case I think maybe it's because Brits are more relaxed about prepositionless ditransitive usages than Americans. – FumbleFingers Jun 27 '13 at 23:03
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    ...but I feel the same as you about your pair of "acceptable/unnatural" usages. Maybe we need an answer here that specifically addresses the question of why and where do we draw the line. – FumbleFingers Jun 27 '13 at 23:07

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