1. Daisy was teaching Taekwondo to a group of children.
  2. Daisy was teaching a group of children Taekwondo.

Which is the correct usage of "teach"?

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Both are valid forms; teach somebody something and teach something to somebody are interchangeable. The former perhaps is marginally more common in everyday usage.

  • Note that when the "something" is not literally a subject to be taught, it pretty much has to be the first version. "I'll teach you something" (literally the word "something"), "I'll teach you a lesson" (common phrase), "I'll teach you how to fish" (how to do something). Meanwhile the word "it" must use the second version: "I'll teach it to you", not "I'll teach you it". – BallpointBen Aug 15 at 19:22
  • 1
    @BallpointBen The reason that each of your first 2 examples is the only valid form is that the noun phrase for the person being taught is a pronoun, and the other noun phrase is not. In such a case, the pronoun must go between the verb and the other object. However, if the noun phrase for the person being taught is not a pronoun, we may have e.g. "I taught something to a guy I met", "I'll teach a lesson to those kids". – Rosie F Aug 15 at 19:38

The first is more explicit. The second is acceptable, but this usage can be harder to parse, especially in more complicated sentences. For instance, "Daisy was teaching New York Chinese Americans British English" is much more confusing than "Daisy was teach British English to Chinese-American students from New York".

Both forms are acceptable. It's worth knowing that second sentence construction is one with indirect objects, which represent the recipient of the direct object. In fact, alternative phrasings that avoid indirect objects almost always use "to" or "for" like in your first sentence.

There isn't any real difference between the meaning of the two sentences. There might be a small difference in emphasis due to word order (did we first think about what was taught or who we're teaching?), but that's trivial.

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