Is there any difference between the two statements below? If yes, please let us know the difference.

I sent him a note yesterday

I sent a note to him yesterday

If both the statements are grammatically correct, what is the difference and when to use them? Does the word order above really change the meaning of the sentence?

  • Difference in what, exactly? There is a difference in word-order. What do you want to know? Do you want to know if the particle, to, is necessary? Edit your question and give more detail, please.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 20:07
  • 6
    There is a syntactic difference, but no meaning difference. This is the Dative Alternation and it occurs with most, but not all, bitransitive (3-place) predicates. Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 21:11
  • Wonderful explanation John Lawler. Thank you So much.
    – Naresh
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 22:05
  • @ John Lawyer : Please post your comment as answer.
    – Sweet72
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 20:27

2 Answers 2


Your two examples have the same meaning. The difference between the two forms is simply a matter of which verbs could be used. For instance:

CORRECT — I made him a cake yesterday

INCORRECT — I made a cake to him yesterday

"Sent" works in both places and, therefore, both sentences have the same meaning.

The reason "sent" works in both places has to do with which prepositions work with which verbs:

sent: to, from, etc.

made: for, out of, etc.

This means that the sentence would have a different meaning if you used a different preposition:

I sent him a note yesterday

I sent a note from him yesterday

The only reason your original examples have the same meaning is that "to" is the "default" preposition in that context.


Look up Direct and Indirect Object for the simplest answer. The two examples are an example of Dative Alternation (send is di-transitive).

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