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Some verbs produce unambiguous syntax when used with an indirect object.

    I brought a toy to Katy. --> I brought Katy a toy.

    I bought flowers for my wife. --> I bought my wife flowers.

Neither of these sentence complements can be interpreted as a single noun phrase or object complement.

But if we use a pronoun instead of a proper noun we sometimes produce ambiguous syntax.

    I brought a toy to her. --> I brought her a toy.

    I bought flowers for her. --> I bought her flowers.

The first sentence is not ambiguous because her a toy is not a sensible phrase, but her flowers is easily interpreted as a noun phrase (poss dt + n) that functions as the single direct object of the verb. Two possible interpretations with very different meanings.

Furthermore, BBC Learn English lists keep as a verb that can be used with OCi/OCd syntax but I can't seem to find a sentence that isn't ambiguous.

  1. I kept the money for you. --> I kept you the money.
  2. I keep the keys for the manager. --> *I keep the manager the keys.
  3. I keep secrets for her. --> I keep her secrets.
  4. I keep secrets for Jill --> *I keep Jill secrets.

Sentences 2 & 4 produce nonsense, and sentence 3 produces ambiguous syntax, where the OCi and OCd merge into a single noun phrase. Sentence 1 seems to work but it feels very awkward to me. But all of these sentences follow the rule of having a beneficiary or recipient of the action using to or for adverbial complement in the standard form.

So what's going on here? Does keep belong on this list or not?

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    This could be an interesting question. However, I do not think it is a matter of ambiguous syntax. It is sentences rather than the syntax that can be ambiguous - ie have more than one possible meaning. 2 and 4 are ambiguous because their syntax could be construed differently. This is so because, as it happens, for the feminine possessive adjective, there is no difference between the objective and possessive forms (‘her’/‘her’). – Tuffy Jul 26 '18 at 11:52
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    "I kept you the money" also seems ungrammatical to me. – user184130 Jul 26 '18 at 12:33
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    @JamesRandom No, surely not. Might you not ask a friend to keep you a seat at the football match? or to keep you some of that nice pie for when you get home? – Tuffy Jul 26 '18 at 12:42
  • @Tuffy Yes but no but ... I am struggling to work out why "kept you the money" sounds wrong to me while "kept you a seat" sounds OK. And even "kept you some money" might be OK ... Maybe my language intuition has just failed me on this one. – user184130 Jul 26 '18 at 12:45
  • I kept the money for you. --> *I kept you the money. [You are correct; it's nonsense.] I keep the keys for the manager. --> *I keep the manager the keys. [Nonsense.] I keep secrets for her. --> I keep her secrets. [OK.] I keep secrets for Jill --> *I keep Jill secrets. [Should be "I keep Jill's secrets."] – Mark Hubbard Jul 26 '18 at 13:55
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It belongs in the list in the sense that it's a "double object verb", but not in the sense that it doesn't fit the article's "V + N (indirect object) + N (direct object)" convention.

I think "V + N (indirect object) + N (direct object)" is a simplification of a third, unmentioned rule: "V + , + Prepositional phrase (indirect object) + , + N (direct object)". However, this simplification doesn't work for the verb "to keep" in formal English hence the confusion.

To demonstrate, reconsider your examples with these rules using the format (1) → (2) → (3):

  1. V + N (direct object) + Prepositional phrase (indirect object)
  2. V + , + Prepositional phrase (indirect object) + , + N (direct object)
  3. V + N (indirect object) + N (direct object)

I brought a toy to Katy. → I brought, to Katy, a toy. → I bought Katy a toy.

I bought flowers for my wife. → I bought, for my wife, flowers. → I bought my wife flowers.

I brought a toy to her. → I brought, to her, a toy. → I brought her a toy.

I bought flowers for her. → I bought, for her, flowers. → I bought her flowers.

I kept the money for you. → I kept, for you, the money. → I kept you the money. (colloquial)

I keep the keys for the manager. → I keep, for the manager, the keys.

I keep secrets for her. → I keep, for her, secrets.

I keep secrets for Jill → I keep, for Jill, secrets.

Secondly, your example "I keep her secrets." doesn't fit format (3); in this case, the direct object has changed from "secrets" to "her secrets", and there is no indirect object. As a consequence, there's no ambiguity.

Another example might be helpful:

I keep a secret for her. ≠ I keep her a secret.

In this case, misapplying rule (3) dramatically changes the direct object from "a secret" to "her" and, therefore, completely changes the meaning of the sentence.

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    PPs cannot be indirect objects. – BillJ Jul 26 '18 at 12:03
  • @BillJ I don't understand how your comment applies to my answer. Please be more specific. – Patrick Dark Jul 26 '18 at 12:26
  • Thanks Patrick for trying to answer this. I disagree however. Your approach is a lot like that found on the BBC site I referenced. The problem I have with this is that in the standard form the objects of the prepositional phrases are not objects of the verb. The phrases functions are adverbial and indicate the manner of the of the action. Even in the OCi/OCd form the former objects of these prepositions are still performing an adverbial function. It makes no sense to me to call them objects, aside from that it's a well understood convention. – Ubu English Jul 26 '18 at 19:11
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    @PatrickDark: This person has some interesting things to say about this issue, and I think his arguments support you ideas to some extent. guinlist.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/… – Ubu English Jul 27 '18 at 5:23

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