In an semi-unrelated post, I saw where someone had said “In this case the indirect object is placed before the direct object because it is a pronoun.” in reference to the sentence “I gave him the book with the red cover while you were out of town.” He said, “Had it been a noun phrase, it would be placed after the direct object: ‘I gave the book to my dad.’”

Is this correct? I do not understand.

P.s. I didn’t take the suggested question link because this is exactly using the split phrasal verb. Therefore, I am asking something different.

  • Possible duplicate of Difference between "speed up something" and "speed something up" You can speed something up or speed up something, and you can also speed it up. But idiomatically you can't speed up it (the pronoun can "split" the phrasal verb, but can't come after it). Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 14:09
  • 1
    Not a duplicate
    – AJK432
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 17:09
  • You seem to be very specifically asking about contexts where a pronoun can't be or (isn't usually) used, but where no such restriction occurs with "ordinary" (or "proper") nouns. There's only an extremely weak modern tendency favouring prepositionless I gave John the book over I gave to John the book, but it's pretty solid that none of us say say things like I gave John it (whereas many of us do happily say I gave him it). I think the underlying principle are the same with a truly phrasal verb like to speed up as they are with a collocation like to give to.. Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 17:27
  • No, because you can also say: I have my dad the book.
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 17:01

2 Answers 2


All are idiomatic except for the last two sentences.

I gave John the book.

I gave the book to John.

I gave him the book.

I gave the book to him.

I gave the book him. NO

I gave the book John. NO

  • Is there a reason for that person’s saying of such a rule? Is there any validity at all to it. He also says “first the Direct Object, then the Indirect Object unless it is pronominalised (in that case it precedes the Direct Object), and finally the adverbial complements.”
    – AJK432
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 14:10
  • I would need to see the full context where that advice was given. By pronominalized perhaps what was meant was "a pronoun in the objective case without a preposition", as in #3 above.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 14:13
  • It is sander’s post, here ell.stackexchange.com/questions/65016/order-of-prepositions#_=_
    – AJK432
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 14:14
  • I am actually on my way out the door. Since it's a long post I'll have to read it later. But skimming it, it seems like sound advice. Read it more closely.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 14:16
  • @AllexKramer: Note that although we wouldn't usually include the preposition in constructions such as I gave to my dad the book, this isn't actually ungrammatical (almost certainly it was more common to include it in the past, to the extent that the indirect object was ever likely to have been specified before the direct object - which was never particularly likely anyway). Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 14:19

I gave dad my book

I gave my book to dad.

I gave him my book.

I gave my book to him

Although all the sentences are grammatically correct., In the first set second sentence sounds natural and in the second set the first sentence sounds natural because of the noun phrase and pronoun respectively.

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