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In my grammar book "Grammatica Inglese Facile (Simple English Grammar)" I read that the following sentences are both correct:

  • Our coach forbids drinking.

  • Our coach forbids us to drink.

But the book adds that the latter cannot rewritten in this way:

  • Our coach forbids us drinking.

However the book doesn't explain its last statement, thus I'm asking if someone can explain whether what the book states true is. If so, why?

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    Also note the first cannot be rewritten "our coach forbids to drink." Jul 1, 2012 at 10:38

3 Answers 3

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The reason is that the verb forbid is transitive but not doubly transitive. That is, it needs one object, but cannot take two objects. The object, however, can be either the thing forbidden or the person to which it is forbidden.

I forbid it.
I forbid you.

(You can't just say "I forbid"; you need the "it" or "you", but either one works).

Our coach forbids alcohol to the team.
Our coach forbids the team to drink alcohol.

I believe some dialects permit a doubly transitive forbid, but most dialects don't:

*Our coach forbids the team alcohol.

Those people who do permit it would allow your last example.

This happens with other verbs as well, like provide, which is only doubly transitive in America—see this question.

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  • Can't I say: I forbid! as an order?
    – Noah
    Jul 1, 2012 at 14:31
  • "Doubly transitive"? Like elect or choose? Jul 1, 2012 at 17:37
  • Doubly transitive, like "I gave you the tickets". You can have a direct object and an indirect object, both with no prepositions. Jul 1, 2012 at 18:18
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    @Noah: You can't say "I forbid!"—that sounds like a non-native speaker to me. You have to say "I forbid it!" or "I forbid you!", which both work fine. Jul 1, 2012 at 18:21
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    This answer assumes that drinking is being used as a noun in the "bad" example, and is accurate based on that premise. But drinking here could also be a gerund; for example, if the sentence were "Our coach saw us drinking", see is not taking two objects. I think the last sentence possibly fails only on semantic grounds, and in the right context, doesn't even fail at all. "Our couch doesn't forbid all drinking. Our coach forbids us drinking." I think this works.
    – Kosmonaut
    Jul 1, 2012 at 19:13
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"Forbids drinking" is OK because the gerund (V+ing) is the object of your verb.

When you want to mention both the person and the act, you can choose between:

  1. forbid somebody to V

  2. forbid somebody from V+ing

You can say "Our coach forbids drinking," and "Our coach forbids us from drinking."

Personally, I prefer to use "forbid to," though.

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  • It's not just you, "forbid s.o. to" is much more common than "forbid s.o. from". Jul 1, 2012 at 11:45
  • I think so too, Peter. But I didn't want to disregard the usage of "forbid from," which has gained some degree of acceptance. Thanks!
    – Cool Elf
    Jul 1, 2012 at 12:22
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    Sometimes going with the less common could make you special, though:)
    – Noah
    Jul 1, 2012 at 14:29
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Perhaps it could be said that Our coach forbids the team alcohol contains an implied to, making the team an indirect object; i.e. Our coach forbids to the team alcohol. (Admittedly ...alcohol to the team sits better).

Similar to Give it me! = Give it to me!

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  • However, grammar books normally state that the double-object construction is only possible when the direct object is either a noun or name, whereas it is to be avoided when it is a pronoun, in which case you are supposed to use the regular construction verb + direct object + indirect object.
    – Paola
    Jul 1, 2012 at 21:05

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