"I gave Tom an apple" and "I gave an apple to Tom" have the same meaning. The meaning of Tom receiving the apple comes form the position of the word in the former example and from the preposition in the latter. Would the two be analysed in the same fashion ? dative?

Related question (in and about French): https://french.stackexchange.com/questions/34858/un-verbe-peut-il-avoir-deux-cod

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    What is your question? Which framework or syntactic theory are you interested in? May 24, 2019 at 11:59
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    In many syntactic theories, the two sentences would be analyzed as being related by rule (or transformation, or alternation). The rule is variously called "Dative Movement", "the Dative Alternation", and "Goal Advancement". It happens only to 3-place predicates with receiver indirect objects, like give, and sometimes to 2-place predicates like make or buy with implied transfer to a receiver, as in He made her dinner or She bought him a suit (but not *He fixed her the car).
    – jlawler
    May 24, 2019 at 15:11
  • Yes, but syntactically they are different. Firstly, English does not have a dative case, so forget that. In "I gave Tom an apple", "Tom" is Oi and "an apple" is Od. But in "I gave an apple to Tom", "apple" is Od and "to Tom" is a PP functioning as a non-object complement of "give".
    – BillJ
    May 27, 2019 at 10:13
  • Rather than saying, "English does not have a dative case", we can point to the previous discussion: english.stackexchange.com/questions/13983/…
    – user21043
    May 27, 2019 at 21:02

2 Answers 2


This is an example of "ditransitive construction". From a typological perspective, English belongs to languages that show a mixture of constructions: the verb (‘give’ in your example) can occur both in an indirect-object construction and in a double-object construction (Cfr. WALS dedicated chapter for further info). So to answer your question, they are not both dative. The first occurence of 'Tom' is coded as a direct object.


In Relational Grammar, the "to Tom" is a 3 (or indirect object), but when that is moved up next to the verb, it has been advanced to a 2 (or direct object). This advancement forces the original 2 to lose its grammatical relation and become a chômeur, which is moved to the right, because of the Stratal Uniqueness Law, which does not permit more than one instance of a term relation on one Stratum. See Chômeur.

(I'm a believer in the Stratal Uniquess Law. Don't know about the rest of this analysis.)

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