I always thought that it is "explain something to someone". However, today I encountered a novel usage from the following snippet: "In response, Accardo asked someone to "explain him the facts of life. And I mean life." Giancana, however, remained adamant and refused to pay.".

I'm conflicted on taking this expression as correct because Accardo is essentially a mobster and is not the literate type. But was he correct?

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    In this case, I think we could say that the "wiseguy" was not such a wise guy. Explain is not a ditransitive verb, so it should not have a moveable indirect object. Sep 24, 2019 at 20:36
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    Where is the snippet from? It looks to me as though it's from a novel about the American Mafia. Am I right?
    – BoldBen
    Sep 25, 2019 at 1:09
  • "Explain me this" and it's variants is fairly common slang in the US.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 25, 2019 at 1:18
  • As I thought...it is Sam Giancona . The book is "Double cross" . It is not a "novel". It is an "insider" testimony. //On second thought, maybe this is worth a chew... Sep 25, 2019 at 4:11

1 Answer 1


If you mention a person after explain, you always use to

Longman Dictionary of Common Errors

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    A rule to fix a common 'error' in a grammar book could mean that 1) it is an remark for foreign language learners that it is a pattern that isn't regular or 2) it is a common performance error and is not intended, or 3) it could mean that it is a common alternative for native speakers and is just not recognized as standard or is regional dialect or stylists just don't like it.
    – Mitch
    Sep 25, 2019 at 1:14
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    @Mitch I like that (what you said, I mean) . Really have to sleep on it though. It is very relevant for what is happening on EL&U.meta Sep 25, 2019 at 3:47

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