Ditransitive verb

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In grammar, a ditransitive verb is a verb which takes a subject and two objects. Some examples involving ditransitive verbs include:

  • He gave Mary ten dollars
  • He passed Paul the ball
  • Jean read him the books
  • She is baking him a cake

These sentences can be written alternately with a preposition as:

  • He gave ten dollars to Mary
  • He passed the ball to Paul
  • Jean read the books to him
  • She is baking a cake for him

In some cases the first form sounds wrong or at least unusual:

  • He gave me it vs. He gave it to me
  • I reported you the problem vs. I reported the problem to you

And in some cases the second form sounds wrong:

  • Give me a chance vs. Give a chance to me
  • Let's catch us some fish vs. Let's catch some fish for us

Most of these rules are arbitrary and are learnt only with experience by native speakers.

Many ditransitive verbs have a passive voice form which can take a direct object. Contrast the active and two forms of the passive:

  • Jean gave the books to him
  • The books were given to him by Jean
  • He was given the books by Jean

The most common variety of ditransitive verbs take a direct object and an indirect object; the indirect object stands in the dative case. There are other sorts of ditransitive verbs in English, however:

  • The state of New York made Hillary Clinton a Senator.
  • I will name him Galahad.

See also transitive verb and intransitive verb.

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