Can one say

a. I sent her my son to teach him French.

b. I sent her my son to learn French.

(Let us say I sent my son to a cousin of mine who is a native English speaker so that she would teach him English/ so that my son would learn English.)

c. He gave me his dog to teach it some tricks.

d. He gave me his dog to learn some tricks from me.

e. He gave me his dog to learn some tricks.

MEANING: He gave me his dog so that I would teach it some tricks.)


Many thanks.

2 Answers 2


The practical answer is that most native English speakers would use all of these sentences if they were not being careful and if the meaning was obvious from the context.

The purpose clause is the purpose of the main verb. It is the reason why "I sent ..." and why "He gave ...".

(a) is more correct than (b) but strictly speaking it means that I taught my son French and the way I did that was by sending him to her.

(b) means that sending my son to her was the so that I could learn French. Both would be understood correctly in context but if you want to be more precise you should write:

I sent her my son for her to teach him French.

Likewise (c), (d) and (e) are all grammatically correct and would be understood in context but, strictly speaking, (d) and (e) mean that "He" is learning the tricks rather than the dog. (c) is the best choice of the three.


a. vs. b.

Both don't sound very natural, but b is closer and would be understood as intended by a native speaker.

a. specifically if the genders were the same it would be confusing. "I sent him my son to teach him French" is unclear about who is learning French (it would be interpreted as the person receiving the son being the person learning French).

A more natural way would be "I sent my son to her to learn French." which still has a bit of the tricky infinitives going on but is 100% clear to an English speaker.

c. d. e.

Both d and e have structures that could (in different contexts) be interpreted incorrectly as (for example if "he" is Bob), "Bob gave me his dog, and in return I taught Bob some tricks (not the dog!)".

c. is pretty much correct, a more natural phrasing could be "He gave me his dog so I could teach it some tricks" but it's not really the same structure at that point.

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