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1.She needs to make a phone call to Anna.
2.she needs to make a phone call Anna.

Which one is correct?

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2 Answers 2

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Ditransitive verbs can get away without a preposition for the indirect object:

She gave Anna a book.
She ordered James a meal. [This might be stretching ditransitivity, but it works the same way.]

However, even with ditransitive verbs, a preposition is necessary when the indirect object follows the direct object:

She gave a book to Anna.
She ordered a meal for James.

This is the way English distinguishes what is given to whom. If there is no preposition, then the direct object is second, and it's the book which is given.

However, verbs which are not ditransitive always require a preposition, and the indirect object must come second.

Make a phone call is not ditransitive. The phone call is what is made; there is no provision for an indirect object because *She made Anna a phone call is not correct; make a phone call is an idiomatic phrasal verb — you don't make a phone call in the same way as you can make a sandwich. "She made Anna a sandwich" would be fine: it translates to "She made a sandwich for Anna".

Because make a phone call can't be split like this, it must use a preposition to indicate the indirect object:

She made a phone call to Anna.

Note that omitting the preposition entirely when it's required is incorrect. At the very least, it changes the meaning ("She gave the man a coat" ≠ "She gave the coat a man") or introduces an unexpectedness which is undesirable.


These examples use simpler sentences to illustrate the point. The introduction of "needs to X" where to is a particle in the infinitive verb which follows doesn't change the appearance of the preposition later on.

She needs to give Anna a book.
She needs to give a book to Anna.

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[1] She needs to make a phone call to Anna.

[2]* She needs to make a phone call Anna.

[1] is fine, but [2] is ungrammatical.

The meaning of "make a phone call" is such that although "Anna" is the semantic recipient of the phone call, "Anna" is not analysed as the grammatical recipient of the "phone call", thus not indirect object of "make" but object of the preposition "to".

[2] is ungrammatical because as in [1] "Anna" is not indirect object of "make", but simply complement of a preposition. But the preposition "to" is missing, hence the ungrammaticality.

Note, though, that where "make" is used in its core sense of manufacture/create/produce/arrange etc. it can be ditransitive, cf. "She made Ed a sandwich", where "a sandwich" is direct object and "Ed" is indirect object.

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  • You can of course say "She needs to call Anna" (or "phone Anna") where Anna is the direct object Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 11:39

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