to send somebody something
to send something to somebody

Is it necessary to use the preposition in sentences like these, in which the direct object stands before the verb?

Open the file I sent (to) you.
What does she give (to) him?

I suppose both options are correct and the preposition might or might not be used. Am I right?


The conventional rule for indirect objects is that the preposition can be omitted if the indirect object goes between the verb and the direct object:

I gave the message to him - verb-direct-to-indirect
I gave him the message - verb-indirect-direct

What's happening in the first sentence is that there is a relative clause with the relative pronoun that. In spoken English, the relative pronoun can be omitted: here is your first sentence as it would be written in formal English, with the relative pronoun included:

Open the file that I sent (to) you.

In the second sentence, what is acting like a pronoun that represents the direct object.

In both cases, then, the direct object is a pronoun at the front of the clause, so the indirect object cannot go between verb and direct object. When parsing the sentence, we understand that the direct object has been fronted, so it's OK to omit the preposition even though we just have verb + indirect object. One of the answers to this question confirms that the omission is permissible.

Note that it is also OK to omit the preposition for, for example:

He ate the sandwich that I made for him
He ate the sandwich that I made him

Note that, if the relative pronoun is used to represent the indirect object, the preposition cannot be omitted. In some cases, you end up with a dangling preposition:

the girl that I lent my jacket to
the person that I poured a drink for
I don't know the man to whom you sold the house

Note that, in very informal spoken English, you may hear the preposition omitted from sentences like the first one. You may also hear final sentence produced incorrectly, but in this case the to is never omitted:

I don't know the man who you sold the house to


The preposition is not required.

The structure here is Noun - relative clause. The noun is an object of the verb in the relative clause, and so the relative pronoun may be omitted. The verb "send" can take two objects, and in relative clause either can be in front of the verb.

These are all possible:

The file I sent you
The file that I sent you
The file I sent to you
The person (that) I sent the file
The person (that) I sent the file to
The person to whom I sent the file

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