I've been struggling with the difference between - "you were given [X]" and - "[X] was given to you"

Is there a difference? If so, what is it? And are there some situations where one construction is better than the other?

  • 1
    Can you provide context? Maybe a sentence you're trying to put it in?
    – Nicole
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 5:29
  • I edited your question. I hope this new wording still expresses your intent. Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 7:35

2 Answers 2


Let's take the following sentence as an example:

  1. I gave you two books.

This sentence is in the pattern of:

Subject + verb + indirect object + direct object.

The sentence can be written in the pattern of:

Subject + verb + direct object + preposition + indirect object as follows:

  1. I gave two books to you.

These sentences when changed in the passive will be as follows:

  1. Two books were given to you by me.

  2. You were given two books by me.

Both the sentences are correct, without any difference in meaning.


Is there a particular reason for wanting to use one of these phrases in your essay? If you're not comfortable using the passive voice yet, it might be better to wait, and use an active construction for this one. (Example: I gave you $20 yesterday; have you spent it all already?)

(1) “you were given”

Example: You were given clear instructions. Can you explain to me why you did not follow them?

(2) “given to you” -- this one is a bit more unusual.

Example: “The Earth was not given to you by your parents but loaned by your children."

Maybe it would be helpful to google these phrases, with quotes around them, to see more examples.

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