In a previous post on this site, the question was asked, "Can we use two pronouns side by side?" However, the example given (and thus answers offered) didn't quite suit the particular question that I have. Additionally, only the case of the specific example was addressed as opposed to the actual question in the title of the post. In a sentence with an indirect and direct object, they should be separated by a preposition.

The girls gave Linda their keys. They gave them to her. (not) They gave her them.

However, is that an absolute rule with possessive pronouns as well?

Linda didn't have her keys, so the girls gave theirs to her.

Would it also be correct to say:

Linda didn't have her keys, so the girls gave her theirs.

I'm not sure why in some cases, the two pronouns together "sound" OK, but in others they don't.

Linda didn't have a jacket, so I gave her mine. (Sounds OK to me)

Linda didn't have a jacket, so Tim gave her his. (Sounds questionable)

Even if these specific examples might be reworded for better clarity, the question is still whether or not, in any circumstances, object pronouns and possessive pronouns (which seem to also be acting as object pronouns here) may be used side by side.

  • 1
    All these are absolutely fine, and the 'her them' types are probably what would be used in informal speech. I also wouldn't be surprised by them in more formal written pieces. Nov 24, 2019 at 11:45

1 Answer 1


Pronouns are troublesome little devils, especially when there is an indirect object about, as their usually is with verbs like ‘give’. I can give a present to my Aunt or just give my Aunt a present. So I gave it to her. But what if I am female and we switch to the 3rd person? She gave it to her. That doesn’t sound too bad. But when we get to “she handed her her hairbrush”, we really get into trouble, even though the grammar is faultless. To whom did the brush belong, the giver or the receiver? So there has to be something immediately before to make clear who the owner of the brush was. Or you have to find a different way of saying the same thing.

In addition one should avoid ‘overaspiration’. All those haitches in succession are uncomfortable to say (and odd to hear, unless there is a clear literary purpose to the alliteration).

So to take your examples.

  1. They gave her them.

There is nothing wrong with this in ordinary speech. It is not appropriate in more formal writing, but this is a reflection of formal writing, which tends to avoid short cuts.

  1. the girls gave her theirs.

I see nothing wrong with this either in conversation. Like you, I would not use the short cut in writing - except for particular stylistic purposes. But that has nothing to do with grammar.

  • O what’s the rhyme for porringer? / Ken ye the rhyme for porringer? / The King he had a daughter fair, / And gave the Prince of Orange her.
    – tchrist
    Nov 24, 2019 at 16:18

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