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USAGE: Implied prepositions in English

From:Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>
Date:Wednesday, November 12, 2008, 18:08
Random observation:

When the two objects of a verb are reversed, a preposition is inserted in front of
the second object, as in "I gave you money. => I gave money TO you." But which
preposition does the verb imply when it is left out? It seems to depend on the

John wrote a letter TO Mary. => John wrote Mary a letter.
John wrote a letter FOR Mary.
John wrote a letter ABOUT Mary.

John threw a bone TO the dog. => John threw the dog a bone.
John threw a bone AT the dog.
John threw a bone FOR the dog.

John bought a dog FOR Mary. => John bought Mary a dog.
John bought a dog FROM Mary.

John paid a dollar TO Mary. => John paid Mary a dollar.
John paid a dollar FOR Mary.

The preference seems to be for the verb to imply "TO" if possible, and if "TO" is
not allowed, to imply "FOR".

In some cases, the preposition is required and the swapping of the objects is not
allowed. The deciding factor seems to be whether the second object is an active
recipient of the action. Active participants allow the inverted object
construction, passive objects do not. For example:

John GAVE the sign TO Mary. => John gave Mary the sign. (Mary actively received the sign)
John TAPED the sign TO Mary. => *John taped Mary the sign. (Mary passively allowed
the taping of the sign)

John sent a letter TO Mary. => John sent Mary a letter. (Mary actively received the letter)
John sent Mary TO the park. => *John sent the park Mary. (Semantically, the park is
always a passive recipient)

John asked Mary FOR the book. => *John asked the book Mary. (The book is a passive recipient)
John asked Mary TO the dance. => *John asked the dance Mary. (The dance is a passive recipient)

Going the other way, I haven't yet figured out why some forms forbid the preposition:

John drove Mary crazy. => *John drove crazy TO Mary.
John called the dog Spot. => *John called Spot TO the dog.



Keith Gaughan <kmgaughan@...>