I send something to someone. /I send to someone something.

I made a cake for my mother. /I made for my mother a cake.

I know with certainty that in these pair of sentences the first ones are grammatically correct; however, I have doubts if it would be possible to put the prepositional phrase before the direct object like the second cases of the pair of sentences. I know that if we have the direct and indirect object , we should put the indirect object before the direct object, so my question is not centred on that but on how it would work out the sentence with a direct object and a prepositional phrase.

  • 1
    There is a rule developing in English: never put adverbs or adverbial phrases between the verb and the direct object. This wasn't a rule 150 years ago, and there are lots of exceptions to it, at least with adverbial phrases, in 19th and early 20th century literature. However, you can find it listed on grammar websites nowadays – for example, here and here. Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 20:08
  • The PPs "to someone" and "for my mother" are complements, not adjuncts (adverbials) here. And they're not indirect objects either (though the meaning may be the same). Thus, "something" and "cake" are direct objects. The 2nd alternant in each pair sounds very unnatural, awful in fact.
    – BillJ
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 20:32
  • @PeterShor I agree with BillJ. PPs are neither adverbs nor adverbial phrases, as far as I know.
    – Lalo
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 20:34
  • 1
    @Lalo A prepositional phrase can also be an adverbial phrase. An example would be: "I will give it to you in an hour". Here, "in an hour" doubles as both a prepositional phrase and an adverbial phrase. This website discusses it in more detail.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 20:40
  • @ktm5124 PPs can be adjuncts (adverbials), but we're talking about the PPs in the OP's question. Phrases don't "double"; rather, they have (like every other element in a clause) two labels; a category one and a function one. In your example, "In an hour" belongs to the phase category PP, and its function is temporal adjunct.
    – BillJ
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 8:07

2 Answers 2


All of your examples are grammatically correct, so it's more a question of what sounds best, and what would be considered best style. Concerning style, there are a few general rules.

(1) If a direct object is a pronoun, then it is often preferable to express the indirect object with a prepositional phrase, placed after the direct object.

Consider the sentence, "I sent you it." Sounds awkward, doesn't it? It does at least to native speakers. This is likely due to cadence—the pronoun "it" doesn't like to be stressed. In cases like these, it's better to use the preposition. "I sent it to you." Now, that's better. However, I should add that there are exceptions to this rule. For example, "I sent you something" is a set phrase which sounds perfectly fine.

(2) Otherwise, if you wish to place the indirect object first, then you don't need the preposition.

If you place the indirect object before the direct object, then you may choose whether or not to use the preposition. It's usually best style not to use a preposition, as it normally sounds fine this way, and in general less is more. But if you choose to use the preposition, then it's still grammatically correct. It's more a question of style.

  • 1
    The rule is called the Dative Alternation; with the right Verbs, the pattern alternates between Verb - Receiver - Object and Verb - Object to Receiver. Both are correct and both mean the same thing. Speaker's choice. Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 20:05
  • @ktm5124 Your answer is plenty useful. I thank you. I have another doubt concerning what you have explained. You have said that when the indirect object is placed before the direct object, it can be chosen whether or not to use a preposition in front of the indirect object; however, would that still be a matter of style if we have a indirect object and a noun clause being used as a direct object? For example, if i say: I gave you what you have been looking for. Would this sentences be grammatically correct? Or with noun clauses it would be better to use a preposition in front of the I.O.?
    – Lalo
    Commented Nov 30, 2016 at 20:24
  • @Lalo I gave you what you have been looking for is perfectly natural. It sounds better than I gave what you have been looking for to you, probably because the length of the noun phrase delays the mention of the indirect object for so so long. It also sounds (much) better than I gave to you what you have been looking for. Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 1:08
  • @Lalo You're welcome! Thanks for your kind feedback. I second Alan Carmack. I think that I gave you what you have been looking for sounds best. I would avoid the other options. I think it's more common to omit the preposition when you put the IO in front of the DO. If the result sounds funny, you can always move the IO to the right of the DO, with a preposition preceding the IO.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 7:19

You could do that, just make sure you drop the propositions:

I send someone something.

I made my mother a cake.

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