Subject + indirect object + direct object:

"Give him it."

Subject + direct object + preposition + indirect object:

"Give it to him."

Similarly, "Give it to John" is ok. But what's the wrong with "Give John it" ?

  • Who says its "wrong"?
    – James K
    May 9 '20 at 6:28
  • Both 'Give him it' and 'Give John it' sound awkward to me, but 'Give him/John the book' are fine. May 9 '20 at 8:05
  • @Kate Bunting, what's the wrong with 'it'? Why are you replacing 'it' with "the book"? May 9 '20 at 8:12

Its correct, but as Kate says "awkward".

The problem seems to be one of "end weight". Fluent English sentences tend to put longer structures at the end.

Give John the book.

This follows this principle. The two word structure "the book" comes last.

Give it to John.

This also works, the "weightier" prepositional phrase is placed last

Give John it.

The pronoun is very short, and the proper noun "John" is weightier. So this is slightly awkward. Not ungrammatical, and not hard to understand, but most people would choose "Give it to John." instead.

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