Using the word given as a past participle in the following sentence is, presumably, correct:

A person is given a gift

Can we use the past participle form of the word added in the same way in the following manner?

A list is added an item

Of course, it is easy to avoid this question and say, "An item was added to the list." But, technically, is the latter form grammatically correct?

Will appreciate elaborate answers and references.

  • We do say 'He increased the temperature a small amount', but there's an understood 'by', and this is an example of a measure phrase being used rather than a ditransitive construction. 'She paid him $20.' // We wouldn't use 'a few items' as a measure phrase. Jul 13, 2021 at 16:05

1 Answer 1


No, it's not right.

The verb add does not take an indirect object the way give does.

  • You can give a person a present.
  • You cannot add ✳a list an item.

That's because give is a ditransitive verb (one with two different objects as core syntactic arguments) that allows for dative alternation with the recipient in the syntactic slot reserved for the verb's indirect object, which is a core argument to the verb.

In contrast, add is not ditransitive; it is monotransitive. With add, you are forced to use a prepositional phrase as an optional adjunct if you want to specify the recipient of the thing added. It is not required, either, since you can always add items without saying what they're being added to. All this is also true of the verb append.

You appear to be attempting to make passives with be by promoting one of the two objects to the subject.

  1. The gifter is the person who has given someone else this gift.
  2. The giftee is the person (who was) given this gift, the person who received it.
  3. The gift is the thing (that was) given to that recipient.

You will not be able to do all that in the same manner when adding things to lists.

  1. The adder is the person who has added an item to a list.
  2. The addend is the item (that was) added to a list.
  3. The list is the thing (that) someone added an item to.

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