The following dative alternations sound off to me:

I want to donate my clothes to charity. --> I want to donate charity my clothes.

He has to submit his paper to his teacher. --> He has to submit his teacher his paper.

If these words cannot undergo dative alternation, is there a rule explaining why?

Also, if members of this community would like to contribute to the list of give-type words that cannot undergo dative alternation either in the comments or answers, that would be greatly appreciated.

  • Related question, What's wrong with “I'll open you the door”?. There are transitive verbs and ditransitive verbs in English. Your second and third questions are too broad or general reference. One question per post is the guideline of Stack Exchange. Please edit your question.
    – user140086
    Jan 27, 2016 at 6:04
  • 3
    @Rathony please chill
    – ws04
    Jan 27, 2016 at 6:32
  • 1
    There's no definitive rule. It's just a property of the verbs that you have to know for each one. In fact, provide allows this in U.S. English but not U.K. English. See Ngram for evidence. Jan 27, 2016 at 13:56

1 Answer 1


You are right; they are 'off', in fact they're ungrammatical.

"Donate" and "submit" are mono-transitive verbs; they can only take direct objects. With these verbs, the recipients or beneficiaries of the objects have to be expressed by PPs headed by "to", as your left-hand examples correctly show. But, crucially, they're not indirect objects; the objects of “to" ("charity" and "his teacher") are called 'obliques' because they're related to the verb only indirectly, via the preposition.

That explains the ungrammaticality of your right-hand examples: with certain verbs, you cannot express the recipient of the direct object with a noun phrase indirect object, but only in a PP.

Other verbs belonging to the same category (i.e. requiring "to" for the recipient) are "announce", "confess", "contribute", "convey", "declare", "deliver", "exhibit", "explain", "mention", "narrate", "refer", "return", "reveal", "say" and "transfer".

  • To add some more, Submit, Present, Dedicate, Confine, Condemn, Accustom, Compare (Liken), Ascribe, Attribute, Suggest, propose, introduce, recommend... The verb recommend could be used as both mono-transitively and di-transitively.+1)
    – user140086
    Jan 28, 2016 at 4:37

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