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If you teach someone to do something, you give them instructions so that they know how to do it. When teach is used with a to-infinitive like this, it must have a direct object.

He taught ✳(me) to drive / driving

https://www.wordreference.com/EnglishUsage/teach

Is to drive not the direct object in that sentence?

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  • Absolutely not! "Teach" is a catenative verb so this is a catenative construction where the infinitival clause "to drive" is catenative complement of "taught". The noun phrase "me" is the syntactic direct object of "taught" and the semantic (understood) subject of the infinitival clause. Note that "He taught me driving" is different: here "driving" is a gerundial noun and hence is direct object, and "me" is indirect object.
    – BillJ
    Sep 11, 2021 at 19:12
  • @BillJ which meaning(s) ? 1. transitive: to impart knowledge or skill to somebody by instruction or example taught me how to drive 2. (in)transitive to give lessons in or provide information about a subject taught Spanish to them 3. (in)transitive to give lessons to a person or animal teaches the students on Wedss 5. (in)transitive: to be a teacher in an institution teaches college
    – GJC
    Sep 11, 2021 at 20:57

1 Answer 1

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In your sentence, to drive is the direct object. In the wordreference link that you provided, they incorrectly describe me as the direct object. This article explains how to tell the difference between direct and indirect objects.

Here is an example from section 122.2.a of the "Oxford Guide to English Grammar" (John Eastwood, 1994) that describes verbs that take an object and a to-infinitive:

"The doctor told Celia to stay in bed".
Here Celia is the indirect object, and the infinitive clause is the direct object.

Verbs like give can take a direct object (DO) and an indirect object (IO). Note that some people refer to the indirect object as a preposition object when a preposition is present. These verbs can be used in two ways:

He gave the book to me - DO=the book, IO= me
He gave me the book - DO=the book, IO= me

The same applies for the verb teach

He teaches English to foreign students - DO= English, IO=foreign students
He teaches foreign students English - DO= English, IO=foreign students

When the subject is an activity, you can use a to-infinitive (to ski) or a gerund (skiing) to describe the activity. You can use a gerund exactly like the above examples, however the situation is not the same with a to-infinitive:

He teaches foreign students to ski- DO= to ski, IO=foreign students

In the earlier examples, to is a preposition that attaches the indirect object, and it was possible to express the same concept in two ways (DO-IO and IO-DO). In this example, however, to is an infinitive marker: the only valid form is the IO-DO form.

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  • I don't get that last paragraph. Is it saying that He teaches them skiing isn't valid? I've no real problem with the construction - especially as it moves more solidly into "gerund" territory: He taught us boxing. Sep 11, 2021 at 13:55
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    I don't agree. Only noun phrases can be direct objects. "Teach" is a catenative verb so this is a catenative construction where the infinitival clause "to drive" is catenative complement of "taught". The NP "me" is the syntactic direct object of "taught" and the semantic (understood) subject of the infinitival clause. Similarly, in "He teaches foreign students to ski", "foreign students" is direct object and the infinitival "to ski" is catenative complement of "teaches". And in "He gave the book to me", "me" is not indirect object but object of the preposition "to".
    – BillJ
    Sep 11, 2021 at 18:28
  • @FumbleFingers, no, the final sentence of the final paragraph relates only to a to-infinitive. The last paragraph but one clearly states that "you can use a gerund exactly like in the above examples".
    – JavaLatte
    Sep 12, 2021 at 0:11
  • @BillJ I have added an example from the Oxford Guide to English Grammar that supports my interpretation.
    – JavaLatte
    Sep 12, 2021 at 0:36
  • Not in scholarly grammar!
    – BillJ
    Sep 12, 2021 at 9:56

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