0

Is there a difference in the word order in this structure? Is it the same if I say

hand something over to someone

and

hand over something to someone?

Collins uses both structures:

  • If you hand something over to someone, you pass it to them.
  • When you hand over someone such as a prisoner to someone else, you give the control of and responsibility for them to that other person.

Is there any difference between the two? Or any indication of when one structure would be more recommended than the other?

2
  • I think those Collins definitions are misleadingly presented. They seem to imply that whether you interleave the object inside the multi-word "phrasal verb" (as opposed to after it) affects the meaning. It's not clear exactly how, but they seem to be distinguishing the literal passing of an object from the metaphorical passing of "responsibility" associated with a person or thing. But in reality there is no such semantic distinction. It's just a "meaningless" stylistic choice. – FumbleFingers Feb 10 at 12:40
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs (their term) classifies hand over as [separable][optional]. As Peter says, weight of noun group will/should be the deciding factor. The main caveat is that prepositions (him; it ...) must come before 'over'. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 10 at 17:44
4

Both structures are grammatical, and there is no difference in meaning between them.

When would one structure be recommended rather than the other?

If your noun phrase is short (like something or the prisoner), we would tend to put over after the noun phrase. If your noun phrase is longer (like someone such as a prisoner) we would tend to put over before the noun phrase.

One more comment: someone such as a prisoner isn't a long enough phrase for the position to make much difference; but for really long phrases, putting over before the phrase makes the sentence quite a bit easier to understand.

1
  • 3
    If the object is a pronoun, there is no choice: it must be placed before the particle (They handed him over to the police.). – LPH Feb 10 at 13:19
0

Over and to him should not be linked.

The combination of "to him" = preposition + pronoun. This can be explained as (i) an indirect object (ii) an adverbial modifier (iii) a (dative) complement

I...handed......it...over...to...him

S...…V…......O...Adv...prep...pronoun

Note how "quickly" or "reluctantly" can substitute for "over", or "over" can be removed altogether.

I...handed...over...it...to.......him

S...…V…......Adv.…O…prep…pronoun

Note how "quickly" or "reluctantly" cannot substitute for "over", although "over" can be removed altogether. This tends to indicate that I handed it over to him should be the preferred form.

Compare:

I...handed...the meal...over... the counter....to......him

S.......V............NP........prep..........NP.........prep…pronoun

I...handed...........him..............the meal...over... the counter.

S.......V..........Indirect Object........O.........[prep.........NP]

S.......V.........Adverbial Modifier......O......Adverbial Modifier

S.......V........Dative Complement...O.........Adverbial Modifier

0

These sentences have been done things to. There are two transformations (rules, alternations) involved here: Viz:

which relates sentences containing both direct and indirect objects, like

  • They gave me the book.
    to sentences like
  • They gave the book to me.

and

which relates sentences containing phrasal verbs like

  • They looked up the book.
    to sentences like
  • They looked the book up.

Both of these rules produce sentences with the same meaning.
And they can both be used together, provided they don't contravene some condition of one of the rules:

  • They sent up the story to him.
  • They sent the story/it up to him. (Particle Shift)
  • They sent him up the story. (Dative + Particle Shift)

but not all possible combinations are grammatical, due to rule constraints

  • *They sent him the story up
  • *They sent up him the story
  • *They sent the story to him up

And when you add pronoun objects, you can generate some really bizarre sentences

  • *They sent up it to him
  • *They sent it him up

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.