Mrs. Carey was shy about bathing a boy, and of course the Vicar had his sermon. But the Vicar insisted that Philip should be clean and sweet for the lord's Day. Mary Ann said she would rather go than be put upon—and after eighteen years she didn't expect to have more work given her, and they might show some consideration—and Philip said he didn't want anyone to bath him, but could very well bath himself.(Of Human Bondage)

Can we omit 'to' before 'her' here? Is it common?

after eighteen years she didn't expect to have more work given to her

  • Yes. In formal writing, it's not a rare construction. It's clear to whom the work is being given. Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 1:22

1 Answer 1



Bitransitive verbs in English have two equally valid patterns:

He gave the book to me.


He gave me the book.

When you put these into the passive, in the second one the object 'me' stays with the verb, so

The book was given to me.


The book was given me.

end up looking almost the same.

Having said this, there are restrictions on the last of these forms. it's a bit old-fashioned; and unlike the active case, it is pretty well restricted to pronouns; so

I gave John the book.

is fine, but

?The book was given John.

is barely acceptable, while

*The book was given the woman

certainly doesn't work (and suggests that the woman was given to the book, in parallel with I was given the book). Indeed, formally, The book was given me is ambiguous, but real-world knowledge (we don't usually give people to books) saves it from ambiguity.


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