They gave him a book.
He was given a book.

In the first sentence above, "They" is the subject, "him" is the indirect object, and "a book" is the direct object.

In the second sentence, "He" is the subject.

For some reason I hesitate to call "a book" the direct object in the second sentence.

Does my hesitation have some justification that expertise in syntax can identify? If so, what would one call it instead of a direct object?

  • I feel it is an object, but I am no expert in syntax. Jul 30, 2021 at 20:15
  • This kind of transformation is possible in English, but not in many languages. I'm not sure that it is helpful to call it passive.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 30, 2021 at 20:33
  • 1
    It's explained on English Grammar and Usage. Short version: there are two rules, Passive and Dative, which can interact in several ways. They're all grammatical and they mean the same thing, like syntactic rules always do.
    – jlawler
    Jul 30, 2021 at 20:47
  • @jlawler : ok, One of them is a passive transformation and the other a dative transformation. The escaped convict in Charles Dickens's novel Great Expectations had been subjected to all forms of physical abuse known to jailers, and he explained that as follows: "I've been done everything to." I've thought of this as a "prepositional passive with a transitive verb." Would you call it something else? Jul 31, 2021 at 21:09
  • @jawler : Or: "This table was eaten lunch at." Jul 31, 2021 at 21:09


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