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A friend of mine was telling me he was hungry and so I said he should get food. He then said "but you're not here to get it me". At this point I told him that it didn't sound like an actual correct sentence but he argued it was. I tried to tell him how weird it sounded but he just said that since he's the British one and I'm Swedish, he'd know the language better than me. So is it actually a legit working sentence or not?

  • Can you explain what your friend meant by the phrase "to get it me"? Did he mean to bring him to the food or to bring the food to him or something else about which I can't even guess? – Gary Botnovcan Dec 16 '16 at 17:06
  • It's entirely possible that it's a legit slang phrase from where he lives in Britain. It would get you funny looks if you said it here in Southern California. – Andrew Dec 16 '16 at 17:30
  • He meant it in the way that he wanted me to go get the food for him and give it to him. – CaptainCookie Dec 17 '16 at 15:02
  • This wouldn't be grammatical or a widely familiar slang phrase in AsE. If I heard this in the U.S. I would assume that it was a foreign speaker -- or perhaps a subculture that I didn't know. – JeremyDouglass Dec 18 '16 at 9:23
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This construction is, I think, restricted to British English (and possibly British-derived Englishes—I don't know what Ozzies and other colonials say). I can't remember ever hearing it (or the parallel Give it me) in the US; we'd say "You're not here to get it for me".

What's involved here is actually a collision between two 'rules'.

  • The first is that a semantic Recipient cast as a nominal indirect object rather than as the oblique of a preposition is supposed to lie between the verb and the semantic Received, the direct object—it's that sequence that informs the hearer/reader which nominal is the indirect object and which the direct object.

    Get/give Joe a sandwich, not *Get/give a sandwich Joe.

  • The second is that the 'new information' in the construction should occupy the last, stressed place in the clause. Consequently, if it is the Recipient which is the new information, it will follow the Received and be cast as the oblique of the appropriate preposition.

    Get a sandwich for Joe (not Sam).
    Give the sandwich to Joe (not Sam).

But in your example, neither the Recipient nor the Received is new information—not only in this particular context but virtually by definition, since both are expressed as pronouns—and neither should occupy the stressed position.

So whaddaya do?

If you're American, you might just say Gimme (or, more minatorily, Give); but that's usually too peremptory for civil conversation. So we compromise: we use the oblique construction, but emphasize the verb and put secondary stress on the preposition, which de-stresses both pronouns.

You're not here to get it for me.

But BrE speakers have the option of employing the object construction, with no emphasis on either pronoun: everything falls away from the verb.

Get me it. or
Get it me

If it makes you feel any better, it sounds just as odd to me as to you; but us foreigners don't get a vote.

  • In colloquial BrE, Give it me is quite common, and I wouldn't normally pay it any attention unless the speaker didn't seem like the kind of person who'd normally use such a highly idiomatic construction. But I don't think there would be many if any speakers who'd use Get it me to ask for something. But I speak as one who disagrees with John Lawler on the limits of acceptable usage in this area, so what do I know? – FumbleFingers Dec 16 '16 at 17:41
  • (The fact of the "misplaced" indirect object being a pronoun is definitely significant though. No-one says, for example, Why don't you give it John? except in some weird context like The monster is demanding a human sacrifice! Why don't we give it John?) – FumbleFingers Dec 16 '16 at 17:48
  • @FumbleFingers Oops, I left off the relevant example--fixed now. But yeah, get it me still sounds odd to me even in transatlantic mode; I think it's the give construction transferred, licensed by being an embedded clause. – StoneyB Dec 16 '16 at 17:48
  • Maybe us Brits are particularly prone to play fast and loose with /t/ and neutral vowels. I'm sure we use far more glottal stops, and once you've committed to ending it with ʔ, it's both logically and anatomically awkward to continue with a "real" /t/ for to. To a typical lazy speaker such as me, the easiest way to deal with that is to just "swallow" the schwa too - effectively, underenunciating the word to the point where it simply disappears (which we then hear so often it ends up sounding "grammatical" anyway). – FumbleFingers Dec 16 '16 at 17:56
  • @FumbleFingers Yous guys also have a much wider variety of stresses to play with than we do. General American speakers use a pitch range of about a third; the first thing you learn as an actor dealing with RP accents is expand that to a sixth. – StoneyB Dec 16 '16 at 18:01

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