Dative shift

From Teflpedia

Dative shift (/deɪtɪv ʃɪft/) or dative alternation is a feature of some English verbs[1] which affects the order of two direct objects:

  • "Alex gave Brian a book"
  • "Alex gave a book to Brian."

However, note:

  • "Alex explained the book to Brian" parses,
  • *"Alex explained Brian the book" is an error.

The rule of thumb is that monosyllabic Germanic verbs undergo dative shift while polysyllabic French and Latin-derived verbs don't. If in doubt, students can use the "Alex gave a book to Brian" form and they won't make an error.