Our young grandson, who is a Mancunian, says 'give it me', and 'give it me back', which is a northern British standard.

It made me think that it is not only northerners who omit the indirect object preposition 'to'. Americans will say 'write me, and let me have some news'.

In the latter case the pronoun 'me' appears as though it has actually become a direct object of an alternative verb 'to write' which is transitive, but with a slightly different meaning to that used in 'write the answer in the left hand column'.

Does anyone else look at it in that way?

  • Variants of the form 'Give me it' are met with quite frequently also, and here it's obvious that there's not a straightforward elision of to. Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 0:42
  • If Sam says to Mike, "Give it me," he is telling Mike to give him (Sam) to "it".
    – GEdgar
    Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 1:37
  • ...the other issue raised here is covered by Which of the following sentences is/are incorrect? “Permit” vs. “allow” vs. “let”. It just so happens you let someone do something, but you allow them to do it. Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 1:54
  • @GEdgar What do pragmatic considerations suggest to you? Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 12:44
  • There's also the ubiquitous one-word imperative sentence "Gimme!"
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 14:45

3 Answers 3


The oblique pronouns me, him, her, us and them can be both direct and indirect objects. In ‘Write me’, me functions as an indirect object in exactly the same way it does in ‘Tell me’.

  • But in 'he informed me', 'me' becomes the direct object, and what he informed me, the indirect. But when an American says 'He wrote me he was coming', which is the direct and which the indirect?
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 21:20
  • Inform is monotransitive, write and tell are ditransitive. In your second example, me is an indirect object. You cannot write a person in the way that you write a letter. Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 22:48
  • @WS2 Agreeing with Barrie, the direct object is [that] he was coming
    – bib
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 22:51
  • @BarrieEngland But had he said 'He told me he was coming', would 'me' similarly be an indirect object. (Reminds me of 'The vicar told the sexton, and the sexton told (sic) the bell'.)
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 21:50

In US English, the prepositions for indirect object can be omitted in certain cases. For example

He hit the ball to me

can be transformed to

He hit me the ball

In general, the preposition can be omitted when the indirect object is placed immediately following the verb and before the direct object.

This works for indirect objects that are nouns, proper nouns and pronouns.

The director threw the crew a party.

I sent John the rent check.

We cast them a line.

Not every structure that looks like an indirect object works this way.

The new citizen cast a vote for the Mayor

cannot be restructured to

The new citizen cast the Mayor a vote.

The phrase for the Mayor is really an adjectival phrase that modifies the noun vote rather than a true indirect object of the verb cast.

  • 1
    There is nothing you have said there that differs from the UK, north and south. 'He hit me the ball' is an everyday use in London or in Manchester. But the one verb where Americans depart from us in this respect is 'write', but only in the sense of writing a letter. 'I last wrote him in August' they will say. Even in northern England, notwithstanding all their 'give it me' and 'give it me back', they will say 'write to him'.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 21:11
  • 1
    I don't think I'd say "he hit me the ball" (maybe because hits tend to just go where they go?); however, I'd have no problem with "he tossed me the ball." I don't think it's just me.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 21:14
  • In tennis they are directed well enough, surely, to say 'he hit me a ball'. But that's not the point. 'He tossed me a pen' serves just as well.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 21:24

Confining analysis solely to cases where there is a noun group following the verb (though, as seen here, that-clauses are considered to realise direct objects by some) I've seen treatments that class all N2s in N1-V-N2 constructions as direct objects, even crazy examples such as It weighs a ton; He laughed his head off. I've also seen treatments regarding all forms resembling ditransitives as true ditransitive constructions (She led them a merry dance).

Allerton, in The Handbook of English Linguistics_eds Aarts and McMahon claims that post-verb noun groups such as appear in

The piano resembled a pianola.

The piano weighed a ton.

The piano had a stool.

The piano seemed an antique.

should not be considered objects but are 'best regarded as belonging to a slightly different category'.

Peter de Swart argues against a clear-cut division between transitivity and intransitivity.

In this publication, he goes on to discuss transitivity as a gradience phenomenon, citing Hopper and Thompson. He says that semantics / the concepts of the subject-matter, and syntax, are inextricably linked, in English as in other languages. The only real conclusion I've been able to extract is that if one tries to use the simplistic analytical model I was taught as 'fact' at school, one is going to encounter severe problems trying to explain some common English usages.

Matthias Meyer further argues:

Around 2006 I started thinking about developing a new model of English verb complementation. The reason for this was a growing dissatisfaction with current non-transformational models such as those presented in the Comprehensive grammar of the English language (Quirk et al. 1995) or the Cambridge grammar of the English language (Huddleston & Pullum 2005). It seemed counter-intuitive to me, for instance, to class predicates such as lack courage, weigh 15 kilos, resemble one's aunt, have a sense of humour and other non-passivisable structures as being transitive and as involving an object. I found it improper to lump them together with classic transitive structures such as write a story, shoot the enemy, buy some sugar – whose complements are easily passivisable.

What I deduce overall is that various grammarians consider the simple S-V-DO and S-V-IO-DO models inadequate to explain all such cases. Barrie classes '[John wrote] me' as S-V-IO, which isn't traditionally standard, but makes sense. Though I've seen this construction analysed as using a 'syntactic DO' (not a 'semantic DO'). OP uses a S-V-DO-IO ordering for "[John gave] it me".

Also, categories other than DOs and IOs are said to exist / be needed [perhaps with 'tell'?].

  • I followed this link from that other thread, and so, I guess this comment might be more appropriate here. That is:: That book there that you linked to (The Handbook of English Linguistics), isn't Bas Aarts and Linda McMahon editors? And that page 162 you linked to, is that a chapter ("Verbs and Their Satellites") authored by D.J. Allerton? So, that would be Allerton's position, I'm assuming. I'm wondering if Bas Aarts actually endorsed Allerton's position somewhere in that book?
    – F.E.
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 0:37
  • I'm wondering about maybe getting that book, but 800 pages, and $250 USA, er, and then there's the paperback at $50 USA, but I'm fearing that the binding will break too easily (I've experienced that before!). It is 2008 published, … but, er, have you read parts of it? How does it compare in your opinion to other established stuff out there? What I mean is, does it have "new" info? Or is it mostly known stuff in other publications that's been mostly only repackaged?
    – F.E.
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 0:42
  • I came across the online excerpts while looking for support for my dislike of classifying say 'it weighed a ton' / 'the book had a hefty price tag' / 'mark time' as V + DO constructions. John Lawler here has given analysis on V + measure phrase constructions [see 'Is this a direct object or predicate complement?']. See also Is the “live” in “He only lived a few days after the accident” intrasitive or transitive?. Commented May 21, 2015 at 14:29

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