Are both theses sentences correct and commonly used:

"Kick the ball to me."

"Kick me the ball."?

closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, user66974, tchrist, RyeɃreḁd, anongoodnurse Jun 29 '14 at 22:13

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  • 3
    They’re certainly both easily understood. I think I’d be more likely to say, “Kick the ball over to me” or something like that, though. “Kick the ball to me” feels like something’s missing, and “kick me the ball” feels unidiomatic, even though it’s perfectly logical and understandable. “Throw me the ball” is very idiomatic; “kick me the ball” much less so. For whatever reason. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 28 '14 at 9:30
  • 1
    The word used in soccer would probably be "pass", and I can't think of any other sports where you would kick the ball to somebody. – Peter Shor Jun 28 '14 at 11:20
  • I've actually closevoted this a General Reference, but on reflection perhaps it should be classed as a duplicate of What's wrong with “I'll open you the door”? – FumbleFingers Jun 28 '14 at 12:30
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    As I said below, I don't think it's general reference. I'd like it to be, but how in the world would a questioner searching our archives be expected to find this answer, unless they'd seen it before? I know where my answers are, but nobody else is likely to. – John Lawler Jun 28 '14 at 15:50

Neither ODO nor OED give kick a ditransitive sense where there are both direct and indirect objects.

Google Ngrams don't find kick [pron] the ball for various values of pron like me, him, them. (You can't use the _PRON_ part of speech in a four-word ngram, so I had to do each individually.)

So it appears that it is not used, and if one can take a dictionary definition as "strict" then strictly speaking it would appear to be ungrammatical. That said, as Janus commented, it's entirely understandable even though it's not idiomatic.

As to why it's unidiomatic, I suspect that it's because me following a verb is more easily taken as a direct object unless that can immediately be seen intuitively to be unlikely. Thus when you hear "Throw me the ball," the brain hears me and can decide "Throw me? I'm too heavy, me must be the indirect object," even before it gets to process "the ball". On the other hand, "Kick him the ball" works in exactly the opposite way: it's more likely to process him as a direct object, and then get discombobulated when the real direct object appears. For this reason, children learning the language by immersion will mark the form as difficult and not use it. Because it's not used, kick never develops into a ditransitive verb.

  • 1
    That hypothetical mis-parsing problem would also presumably arise sometimes with the EModE ethical dative—e.g., “he that kills me some six or seven dozen of Scots at a breakfast.” It does not seem to have prevented the construction from arising, though possibly it contributed to its demise. Maybe I read too much EModE, but I found myself inclined to parse “kick me the ball” with the me as ethical dative. – Brian Donovan Jun 28 '14 at 11:52
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    I suspect part of the reason why dative movement is problematic is that, if you kick me the ball, I don't wind up possessing the ball (except in the technical sport sense, which is strictly temporary). That appears to be a very strong invited inference -- at least -- of Dative movement, when it applies to other constructions, like Benefactives. FF linked my answer about that in his comment above, so I won't repeat it here. However, I don't think that's anything like "general reference"; how would anybody find it if they hadn't seen it before? – John Lawler Jun 28 '14 at 15:47

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