he showed me it


British English
Or, "he told me it", "he gave me it" etc etc.

Rather than, "he showed it to me", "he told me about it", "he gave it to me".

Is this a regional anomaly within British English? Does American English share this in some regional varieties?

I don't think it's standard anywhere.
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  • Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It is substandard and not technically correct (I don't think).

    I have heard it used this way but I never would. I may be wrong, but I don't think it's standard or proper.

    (American English perspective)


    Senior Member
    English UK
    Actually, in BrE, I think that "he showed/gave/told me it" is relatively common: certainly more common (these days) than "he showed/gave/told it me" - which I remember hearing from older people in my long-ago youth.

    Your safest bet, loggats, is "he showed/gave/told it to me": no-one would have a problem with that:).

    I have a feeling there are previous threads...?


    British English
    Thanks Loob!

    Personally, I'd never use the form. I'd just say "he gave it to me", or some such. I'm interested in knowing how common the other way of saying it might be, where it's used, and by whom.

    edited to add: if there are previous threads, I haven't had any success finding them yet!


    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    He showed me the forum:tick:. He showed me the picture:tick:. He showed me it.:cross:

    It must be something about pronouns in this verb+(direct+indirect object) succession that people react to?


    Senior Member
    Hi, I tried to find some more examples on GoogleBooks, and anything similar was this: 'And he showed me; He, the angel, showed me it. In the text... (The Whole Works of John Bunyan 1862 - it might have been common then, but I don't think it is now); however, the rest of the examples were something like: showed me (that) it... , showed me — it... and so on. It is understandable, but I would never use it myself although it might depend on the register, style, and the time when it was written or said.
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    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I seem to recall that when I moved from London to Derby as a child, I was pulled up for saying "He gave me it" and "He showed me it." I might be wrong.

    One way to get round the problem of the order of the pronouns (at least with "give") is to use the slang London form, "Give it here!" :D


    Senior Member
    I have always said "He showed me it" and the like, and have never regarded it as informal or non-standard in any way. That also goes for my Australian children, and for that matter for AuE in general.

    The general rule is that the ditransitive construction (give X Y) can be used unless the recipient (X) is too much "heavier" than the object given (Y).
    E.g. I wouldn't say
    He gave Tom it. :cross:
    I gave the girl next door that. :thumbsdown:

    However, this rule is at variance with tradition. Traditionally "it" came first.
    W C Fowler (a US grammarian) in 1850 lists only:
    1. Give it him.
    in ditransitive use.

    Onions (a British grammarian) writing in 1904:
    Where the pronouns are of approximately equal phonetic value, there appears to be some uncertainty as to their position. Thus,
    2. I cannot lend them you now.
    3. I cannot lend you them now.

    are equally possible.

    I would classify (1) and (2) as non-standard in present-day English. Yet I remember hearing
    I gave it him.
    both from my Lancashire grandmother, and from a classmate in a Lancashire school (who I recall was laughed at by the teacher for saying it the wrong way round).

    This ngram compares all three phrases:

    Surprisingly, "give him it" is barely used, while "give it him" has been losing ground to "give it to him" since 1800.
    "give it to him" overtook "give it him" in AmE in 1840, and in BrE in 1920.

    This seems to be a case where the weight of tradition is preventing the logical grammatical rules ("He gave me it") from being applied universally.


    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Actually, in BrE, I think that "he showed/gave/told me it" is relatively common: certainly more common (these days) than "he showed/gave/told it me" - which I remember hearing from older people in my long-ago youth.
    I looked in the BNC* for give it me and give me it, and they seem to be neck-and-neck. Of course the corpus will also contain material from a little further back. Give me it is mainly from conversation; give it me can be from conversation, but many instances are from fictional texts.

    *British National Corpus
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