What is grammatically wrong with saying, "She showed me it." I know that should be showed it to me but I can't think of the reason the first is wrong. Thank you.

  • 2
    There's nothing "wrong" with either version - it's just a matter of idiomatic preference. Which is affected by whether the direct/indirect objects are pronouns (She showed it to me) or actual nouns (She showed John the picture). Note that to many/most BrE speakers, She gave it me is fine, but not so many AmE speakers would accept this without a preposition. May 6, 2015 at 13:34
  • @FumbleFingers If you said she gave it me south of the Trent, it would immediately identify you as a Northerner. Perhaps it's your Lancashire upbringing - I will forgive you that.
    – WS2
    May 6, 2015 at 14:18
  • @WS2: Actually, I'm born & bred in SE UK. But my father's Lancastrian, and I'm probably a bit of a "dialect whore" (I do tend to pick up on and repeat unusual regional forms somewhat indiscriminately! :) But I think it's my mother (originally Irish) who's more likely to go the whole hog and say things like "Open Aunt Ethel the door!" May 6, 2015 at 15:28
  • In US English, the Dative Alternation (i.e, the alternation between the Vb IO DO structure and the Vb DO to IO structure) is optional except with a pronoun DO, where the first form is ungrammatical. *They threw her it is out, and so is *She showed me it. Note that normally the indirect object is a human, while the direct object is neuter in a 3-place verb. People being more important than things, it makes sense to put the human argument at the end, where it's prominent, instead of stuck in the middle of the sentence. May 6, 2015 at 17:06
  • @JohnLawler But I hear Americansl use the preposition to for the dative, as we do in southern England. The North of England give it me and give it me back didn't survive in the New World, it seems.
    – WS2
    May 6, 2015 at 19:44

1 Answer 1


Linguists will sometimes talk about the "weight" of a phrase. This refers roughly to the length. For example, you can say "She showed the dirty spot on the floor of the house to me" or you can say "She showed me the dirty spot on the wall of the house" because "the dirty spot on the floor of the house" is long enough that it doesn't disrupt the cadence/stress pattern of the sentence. "She showed me it" has four stressed syllables in a row, accounting for 100% of the syllables in the sentence.

It's not so much ungrammatical as it is awkward, so it's avoided.

  • Interesting point, but personally I would avoid showing the dirty spot on the floor of the house which was made by the workman who came on Thursday afternoon, his wife having been ill on the Wednesday, when he had to look after the children, and who has a reputation for not cleaning up after himself, to anyone. I would almost certainly say I would avoid showing anyone the dirty spot....
    – WS2
    May 6, 2015 at 19:48
  • Agreed -- your example is grammatical, but sounds awkward and should be avoided.
    – Sawbones
    May 8, 2015 at 15:04

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