Give me / give to me

FromPA

Senior Member
USA English
ana_bgs said:
I've always had a doubt with the verb "give".

Sometimes I see it used as a transitive verb, like "Give me my book".

But I could also see it with 'to' : "Give it to me" (like the Madonna's song :) )

What's the difference? Can you use it the way you prefer or is there any gramatical rule?
Both cases are correct, but you can use "Give me that"
In both examples, the verb “to give” is transitive (the action impacts a direct object - Give it/my book). The difference is how the indirect action is expressed, either as an indirect object (give me [my book]) or as a prepositional phrase (give [my book] to me).
 
  • gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    Sometimes I see it used as a transitive verb, like "Give me my book".
    "To give" is almost always transitive, especially in its normal sense of "dar." The intransitive uses are much less common.

    v.intr.
    1. To make gifts or donations: gives generously to charity.
    2.
    a.
    To yield to physical force: The sail gave during the storm.
    b. To collapse from force or pressure: The roof gave under the weight of the snow.
    c. To yield to change: Both sides will have to give on some issues.
    3. To afford access or a view; open: The doors give onto a terrace.
    4. Slang To be in progress; happen: What gives?
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Maybe it's a good thing, or maybe it's a bad thing, but morphology is a rather weak feature of English. In some languages, transitivity is morphologically marked, meaning that transitivity is actually a property of verbs. And so, through inflection, in some languages a verb is marked as transitive or intransitive, while in others the transitive verb is morphologically marked, leaving the intransitive verb unmarked. Accordingly, the answer to the question Is this verb transitive or intransitive? is answered by the verb itself, though inflection.

    That's not how things work in English. The verb "give" is unchanged (it keeps the same form) whether we classify it as transitive

    He gives money generously to charity

    or intransitive

    He gives generously to charity,

    and that classification is based on whether the verb "give" appears with a noun/direct object or not.

    The basic problem of transitivity is that it only focuses on "nouns" as the grammatical elements that "complete" the meaning of a verb. Instead of transitivity, some grammarians focus on the notion of valency. Valency focuses on all the grammatical elements needed by a verb to convey its meaning.


    I've always had a doubt with the verb "give".

    Sometimes I see it used as a transitive verb, like "Give me my book".

    But I could also see it with 'to' : "Give it to me" (like the Madonna's song :) )

    What's the difference? Can you use it the way you prefer or is there any gramatical rule?

    Thanks!

    Following the notion of valency (rather than "transitivity"), the verb "give" in your example requires three arguments: a subject (an understood "you") plus two additional arguments. These two additional arguments can be

    (a) a pronoun plus a noun

    Give me my book

    or

    (b) a pronoun and a prepositional phrase

    Give it to me

    As far as syntax goes, it doesn't matter which you use, (a) or (b); what matters is that these two arguments be included in the sentence. The choice of (a) or (b) is up to the speaker.

    By the way, traditionally, (a) is said to contain an indirect object and a direct object, while (b) is said to have an object and a prepositional phrase. Going from (a) to (b) is known as dative alternation, where the indirect object in (a) becomes a prepositional phrase in (b).
     
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