If a sentence You gave a gift becomes a passive form, which of following two is right?
A gift was given you or A gift was given by you. I am confused. An answer or any related reference is appreciated!

1 Answer 1


It's a bit confusing because give is ditransitive- it can take two objects. Like all ditransitive verbs, there are two forms of the active voice-

Subject gave DirectObject to IndirectObject
Subject gave IndirectObject DirectObject

The direct object is the gift, and this becomes the Patient in passive voice, and the giver is the Agent- which can be omitted or attached with a by preposition. But what happens to the indirect object? The direct object has been fronted to become the Patient, so the two indirect object forms are both valid:

DirectObject was given to IndirectObject
DirectObject was given IndirectObject

So, looking at your two sentences:

A gift was given you - you is the indirect object
A gift was given by you - you is the agent

The second one is the passive voice equivalent of your first sentence.

  • Then, is You gave me a gift the same as each of A gift was given me and A gift was given to me?
    – op ol
    Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 13:25
  • @opol Essentially yes, although your passives don't include the agent, so it would be more accurate to say that it is the same as both "A gift was given me by you" and "A gift was given to me by you". The latter version (with the "to" included) is preferable in formal contexts. The to-less version may be rare in some countries or regions.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 13:33
  • I believe "explain" is also a ditransitive (that can take two objects) verb. But I don't think "I was explained the problem" works. I would only say "The problem was explained to me". I'm afraid your explanation doesn't work. Commented May 23 at 10:04
  • @IlyaTretyakov What makes you believe that explain is ditransitive? Ditransitive means that a verb can take two objects. The Cambridge dictionary does not say that it can take two objects. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/explain
    – JavaLatte
    Commented May 23 at 15:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .