"They was trying to hand me out a flyer."

Stone, William w-stone at NEIU.EDU
Tue Jul 12 15:10:35 UTC 2011

As a speaker of standard and rural non-standard southern British English, I find myself in total agreement with Damien. Whenever a phrasal verb becomes ditransitive by the addition of an indirect object, it is inserted between the verb and the particle as in the examples below.

Could you hand me down that book?
I'll fry you up some eggs.
She wrote me down a list of chores.

The indirect object doesn't even have to be a pronoun.
Pick Carol up some asprin at the chemist.

Dr. William J. Stone
Associate Professor
TESL Ptogram
Northeastern Illinois University
From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Damien Hall [D.Hall at KENT.AC.UK]
Sent: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 8:50 AM
Subject: "They was trying to hand me out a flyer."

George said:

'Is "hand me out" really common in England?'

Yes - and in the rest of the UK (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) as well.  Well, I'd say 'hand out a flyer to me' would be the majority variant, but 'hand me out a flyer' is a pretty common minority variant, maybe commoner in production in the North of England than elsewhere, and I don't think it would be thought of as especially unusual by any native speaker of BrE that heard it.

So, sentences like the following made-up ones are completely acceptable to me (Standard Southern British English, brought up in London, but with lots of family in the North):

'The doctor wrote me out a prescription.'

'I'm waiting for him to send me that back' ( = 'send back that [thing] to me')

etc etc.

There has been some work done on the acceptability of these sentences, I think by Bill Haddican (then of the University of York, which is in the North of England, of course; now of CUNY Queens) - he would have done it exactly because Americans can't usually produce sentences like that (and he is American).  I'll ask him whether he has any results from it.



Damien Hall

University of Kent (UK)
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, 'Towards a New Linguistic Atlas of France'

English Language and Linguistics, School of European Culture and Languages

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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