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    • Join Date: Jan 2006
    • Posts: 4

    Ditransitive verbs

    hello, Im a Spanish teacher and Ive got a very big problem. Last Friday a student asked me the following question: Why the sentence: Mr. Brown prepared his guests dinner sounds odd if it fulfills the rule: S+V+OI+OD. This sentence sounds better if we say Mr. Brown prepared dinner for his guests, following the pattern: S+V+OD+prep+OI. Im sure you will have a very good answer. Thanks in advance. Antonia

  1. Casiopea's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2003
    • Posts: 12,970

    Re: Ditransitive verbs

    First, I'm not all that convinced that it sounds odd. What about?

    EX: Cook prepared the dogs their dinner.

    Second, not all double object verbs undergo dative alternation. Just because a structure fits the pattern IO+DO doesn't mean it undergoes the expected alternation.

    There are two major classes of double object verbs, traditionally called ditransitive verbs, and they differ in their semantic architecture. Here are two verbs that share similar meaning, give and donate, and yet they do not share the same dative alternation. "give" undergoes it, whereas "donate" cannot:

    [1] Give money to Max ~ Give Max money.
    [2] Donate money to the church ~ *Donate the church money.

    Thirdly, if this structure, Mr Brown prepared his guests dinner, is acceptable, what is it about its semantic frame that has speakers parsing it correctly? That is, speakers know that Mr Brown didn't prepare his guests, but rather that Mr Brown prepared dinner for his guests. That "dinner" is the theme. Possibly, there's a semantic similarity at play here, notably "prepare/make"?

    Mr Brown prepared his guests dinner. <dative alternation>

    Analogous with,

    Mr Brown made his guests dinner.

    • Join Date: Jan 2006
    • Posts: 4

    Re: Ditransitive verbs

    Thanks for your answer, Ive asked several teachers in my high school and all of them agreed that the sentence sounded odd, but your explanation as an English-speaking person (I guess) is perfectly acceptable and convincing, but we still prefer using "Mr. Brown prepared dinner for his guests". At least we have an explanation that the sentence the student told me was perfectly correct. Thanks

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