The following sentence is taken from pag. 79 of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language

He quickly spent the money given him by his uncle.

Is it grammatical? Would it still be so after adding prep. to? why?

*He quickly spent the money given TO him by his uncle.*

  • 1
    Yes, of course it's grammatical. "Him" is indirect object of "given". But the PP "to him" is not indirect object, though it remains a complement of "given", and has the same meaning as the NP "him". Note that PPs cannot be objects, direct or indirect. – BillJ Jun 9 '18 at 12:19
  • @BillJ I thought it was a passive, the money that was given to him – GJC Jun 9 '18 at 12:26
  • Yes, it is, but the analysis of "him" as Oi and "to him" as PP still holds. – BillJ Jun 9 '18 at 12:59
  • That's one definition of "indirect object" -- a Goal NP in a bitransitive clause that is not marked with to. However, many other definitions exist, and since bitransitive clauses are usually subject to the Dative Alternation, there is no semantic difference between the official CGEL "indirect object" and the alternative prepositional phrase complement to him. The CGEL analysis doesn't rely on transformations to relate sentences, thus requiring more terminology to name structures that are related transformationally in other analyses. You pays your money and you takes your choice. – John Lawler Jun 9 '18 at 17:38
  • Agreed that there's no semantic difference, but there is a syntactic difference: in for e.g. "I gave the money to him", "him" is complement of "to", not of "gave" and is thus is not Oi, but an oblique. Further, as CGEL rightly points out, in the passive "He was given the money", "he" also has the role of recipient yet no one would want to say that it was indirect object here: it is clearly the subject. Syntactic functions must be assigned on the basis of syntactic properties, not sematic ones. – BillJ Jun 9 '18 at 18:02

Yes, it's grammatical. The sentence is employing what's called a ditransitive construction.

Some transitive verbs are also ditransitive verbs, meaning they can take a ditransitive construction. "Give" is one of these verbs and is one of the more common verbs to which we employ ditransitive construction in lieu of the standard transitive construction. Employing a ditransitive construction involves moving the indirect object to immediately after the verb and eliminating the preposition.


Transitive Construction: "His uncle gave money to him."

In the above, the direct object "money," that which receives the direct action of the verb "give," meaning the object that is given, appears immediately after the verb, so the indirect object "him," appears afterward and is introduced by the preposition "to."

Ditransitive Construction: "His uncle gave him money."

In this example, the indirect object "him," appears immediately after the verb, and the direct object "money," appears after that. In so doing, the preposition "to," has been eliminated from before the indirect object. This is what makes the construction ditransitive.

Your sentence is a bit different than the above examples because it is using the verb "give" in its participial form within a phrase as an adjectival modifier with "money," its direct object and the noun it modifies, actually appearing beforehand. That doesn't matter, though. What matters is the placement of the indirect object "him." Since it appears immediately after the verb, the preposition that would normally introduce it can be eliminated because "give" is a ditransitive verb.


The sentence is grammatically correct.

If you add the preposition “to,” it would still be grammatically correct, but shorter is better according to Strunk and White, so the sentence sans “to” is more effective writing.

  • 2
    Strunk & White are notoriously poor judges of style who habitually and flagrantly flout their own advice even in the very same paragraph where they’re giving it—only follow their advice when it actually coincides with common sense. In this case, shorter is not better; the preposition-less version is quite common in some colloquial Englishes, but the prepositioned version is much more universal and common overall and is therefore the safer bet in most cases. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 9 '18 at 12:11
  • thought it was a passive, the money that was given to him – GJC Jun 9 '18 at 12:26

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