Query: double object and dative structures

Seth Jerchower sejerchower at JTSA.EDU
Mon May 4 18:35:26 UTC 1998

What Bingfu says for English holds true as far as pronouns go, but I would
like to add some further observations and data regarding both English and
Italian (as separate corpora, of course).

First, I am curious to know why the simple present tense is cited as
paradigmatic ("I 'give' it to him") when it is, in fact, so infrequently
used (imho, the reason it is so little used is that English is rich in
aspectual constructions; the simple present does not convey any aspectual
detail, and the cited verb is one where the action is acutely perceived as
either perfective or imperfective).  Therefore, I'll be citing examples in
the past perfect, which is more natural in a free-standing declarative

Now, as stated, Bingfu's observation is correct with regards to the direct
object/accusative in the form of a pronoun:
1a.    I gave it to John
1b.    *I gave John it.
1c.    *I gave to John it.

However, we're playing an entirely different ball game when a noun is used
(it seems indifferent whether the article is definite or indefinite):
2.    I gave the ball to John.

Now, in this instance, observe what occurs in the following movements of
DO/acc and IO/dative:
3a.    I gave John the ball.
3b.    *I gave to John the ball.
(the preposition is omitted, likely due to historical reasons where the old
dative syntax is conserved; in fact, inclusion of the prepostion is
downright agrammatic).

Now, what occurs if we substitute "John" with the animate pronoun?:
4a.    I gave the ball to him.
4b.    I gave it to him.

5a.    I gave him the ball.
5b.    *I gave to him the ball.
5c.    *I gave him it.
Note that 5a and 5 b are parallel to 3a and 3b, and that 5c is parallel to

Finally, compare the following passive versions:
6.    John was given the ball [by me].
7.    The ball was given to John [by me].
8.    The ball was given [by me] to John.
Number 6, while acceptable, would be rarely used.  Note, however, that in
all three examples, the agent can be easily left out, but if needed, it can
be moved within the predicate either after the verb or after the prep.

Structures and movements in modern Italian (there are significant
differences in early literary varieties; write to me for bibliographic

First, without citing any examples, I will state that the preposition "a" is
obligatory for the indirect object NOUNS (there is a special indirect/dative
form of the pronoun that by NO means takes the preposition).

In base phrases (no pronouns), the order is [S] V DO IO:
1.    Ho dato la palla a Giovanni.

When the DO is replaced by a pronoun, the order is [S] DO V IO (and in the
case of the "passato prossimo", where the passive participle is used, gender
coordination/synthesis is required between the pronoun and the participle,
which acts as an adjective):
2a.    L'ho data a Giovanni.
2b.    *Ho dato la a Giovanni.
2c.    *Ho dato essa a Giovanni.
(cf. in early literary varieties, the synthetic to moderately polysynthetic
"Datala ho a Giovanni.").

In phrases where both nouns in the predicate are substituted by pronouns:
3.    [Io] gliel'ho data. (declarative, but usually a response form; note
the phono-syntactic glide between "gli" and "la, and apheresis) [S] IO DO

There are some emphatic forms worth mentioning, all containing reduplication
of pronouns:
4.    La palla, l'ho data a Giovanni.
5.    Gliel'ho data la palla a Giovanni.
6.    Gliel'ho data a lui.

These examples are by no means exhaustive, and I did not take illustrate
structures as they occur in other tenses.  I do hope, however, that these
data will be appreciated.  Also, with regards to English, we should compare
the paradigm structures for "to give" with those of other verbs, such as "to

Best to all,


"...che quanto piace al mondo è breve sogno."

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