4

We have verbs in English with 2 objects, such as "send," "ask," "give," etc.. For instance, we can say:

  1. I gave the book to John.

or

  1. I gave John the book.

In both of these sentences, "the book" is the direct object and "John" is the indirect object. The rule is that we can use the indirect object with or without a preposition. Now, consider that we want to use the indirect object "John" in the following sentence and modify it with whom:

  1. He saw John, to whom the book was given.

or in another form, we can say:

  1. He saw John, whom the book was given to.

However, my question is that whether or not we can eliminate that "to" from our sentences. In other words, write:

  1. He saw John, whom the book was given.

In this last sentence, I am using the rule which I used in the sentence at the beginning of my question.

6

(A small issue that doesn't relate to the grammaticality: it seems unnatural to me to use a defining relative clause after a proper noun, at least in this particular sentence. So I'm going to use commas before the relative clauses in all of the sentences that I discuss.)

Like any other clause, a relative clause generally needs a subject. In your sentence (2), "I gave John the book," "I" is the subject. If it were possible to form a relative clause with the same grammatical structure as sentence (2), it would be as follows:

  1. ?He saw John, whom I gave the book.

This sounds (barely) grammatical to me, but I expect many other people would find it ungrammatical. I don't think a native speaker would ever prefer this over an alternative formed from "I gave the book to John":

  1. He saw John, to whom I gave the book.
  2. He saw John, who(m) I gave the book to.

Sentence (3) might be a marginal case like "Whom did you give the book?": as far as I could determine, all native speakers agree that the preceding sentence sounds bad, but there is disagreement about whether it is outright ungrammatical.

It took some searching through a number of examples of "to whom I gave [direct object]" for me to find one example of "whom I gave [direct object]" in Google Books:

Next morning I found many men and women dead, whom I gave water last night. (Hiroshima, by John Hersey)

Passive-voice versions of ditransitive verbs

In your proposed sentence "He saw John whom the book was given," you've removed the original subject of the sentence, the pronoun "I." But as I mentioned previously, the relative clause is required to have a subject. The subject can't be "whom," as that is an object pronoun. The only remaining noun phrase is "the book." This is an object in your sentence (2). So your proposed sentence would have to use a passive voice structure, where the relative clause corresponds to an independent sentence like the following:

  1. *The book was given John.

This kind of passive voice is disfavored in present-day English: it sounds archaic at best, and just wrong at worst.

In general, people only use the following passive forms for ditransitive verbs:

  1. The book was given to John.
  2. John was given the book.

So it would be grammatical to say either of the following:

  1. He saw John, to whom the book was given.
  2. He saw John, who was given the book.
2

You can give [something] to [someone]
When a verb can take two objects, one of which has the action of the verb done to it and the other of which has the action of the verb directed towards it, the verb is called DITRANSITIVE.

I gave the book to John
I gave the book to him
I gave him (John) the book

The following examples contain clauses in the PASSIVE VOICE

I saw the person to whom the book was given (defining relative clause)
I saw the person whom the book was given to. (defining relative clause)
I saw the person who was given the book. (defining relative clause)
The last example is informal, and some might say "nonstandard"

and

John, whom I gave the book to, is my brother. (non-defining relative clause)
John, who I gave the book to, is my brother (non-defining relative clause)

Other examples of ditransitive verbs

                  INDIRECT OBJECT
    |Tell         | me           |a story
    |He showed    | us           |his home
    |We bought    | David        |a present
    |Can you lend | your friend  |a pen?

You don't need the preposition to between the VERB and the INDIRECT OBJECT. Why? Maybe two hundred or more years ago a preposition was used, I don't know because I am not an etymologist, but in English today the preposition is omitted between a VERB and the INDIRECT OBJECT

                   DIRECT OBJECT  INDIRECT OBJECT
    |Tell         | a story       |to me
    |He showed    | his home      |to us
    |We bought    | a present     |to David
    |Can you lend | a pen         |to your friend?

The preposition to must be used after a DIRECT OBJECT if you want to say who the action of the verb is directed to. OR ... if you want to say to whom the action is directed.

Ditransitive verbs in the passive voice

Ditransitive verbs have both a direct object and an indirect object. If the direct object is not a personal pronoun, the order of the objects is optional, but if the direct object comes first, the i̲n̲d̲i̲r̲e̲c̲t̲ ̲o̲b̲j̲e̲c̲t̲ is preceded by a preposition, usually to:

  1. The company paid t̲h̲e̲ ̲c̲u̲s̲t̲o̲m̲e̲r̲ $500 as compensation.
  2. The company paid $500 to t̲h̲e̲ ̲c̲u̲s̲t̲o̲m̲e̲r̲ as compensation.

If the direct object is a personal pronoun, it always comes before the indirect object:

  1. The compensation was $500, and the company paid it to the customer without delay.

In the passive voice, either of the two objects can be the subject of the sentence. If the direct object is the SUBJECT of the passive sentence, the i̲n̲d̲i̲r̲e̲c̲t̲ ̲o̲b̲j̲e̲c̲t̲ is preceded by a preposition:

  1. T̲h̲e̲ ̲c̲u̲s̲t̲o̲m̲e̲r̲ was paid $500 as compensation.
  2. $500 was paid to t̲h̲e̲ ̲c̲u̲s̲t̲o̲m̲e̲r̲ as compensation.

The OP asked whether the preposition to can be omitted with the pronoun whom as i:

He saw John whom the book was given

The short answer is no. The preposition to is needed to show where the DO is directed at.

Source: Grammaring.com

  • I don't know of anyone who would identify this as non-standard: I saw the person who was given the book. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 18 '16 at 15:24
  • @TRomano You lie in wait, don't you? Well I did write: some might say "non standard", I was thinking of aged grammarian purists. I was wrong. I'm glad you corrected me. Thank you. Are there any other inaccuracies in my humble answer that you are at pains to reveal? – Mari-Lou A Oct 18 '16 at 15:27
  • Nope, not lying in wait. Just popping by when I have a free moment or two between tasks. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 18 '16 at 15:36
  • @TRomano I gather then the rest of this answer meets your exacting standard. – Mari-Lou A Oct 18 '16 at 16:51
  • @TRomano I gather then the rest of this answer meets your exacting standards (damn, forgot the -s) – Mari-Lou A Oct 18 '16 at 17:12
1

You cannot eliminate the preposition to in that way.

He saw John preposition needed here whom the book was given or here.

P.S. And you'll hear a majority of native speakers say:

... who the book was given to.

P.P.S. But we can say

... who was given the book.

P.P.P.S.

It is also possible to say:

It was the dictionary given him for his birthday.

The plaque awarded Jane Jones for her many years of community service is on display in the lobby.

To my ear, these are viable constructions. I speak "Central-Atlantic" American English.

  • So, why can we eliminate it in the sentence 2? – Diamond Oct 17 '16 at 20:25
  • You can't say I gave the book John. or I gave the book him. Why not there? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 17 '16 at 20:26
  • But we can say "I gave John the book" or "I gave him the book." – Diamond Oct 17 '16 at 20:29

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