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You want to cook me?! Ditransitive Verbs

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Ditransitive verbs have two objects. For example, "I'll cook you dinner." These verbs can cause students problems. (That's another ditransitive verb; these verbs can cause problems for students.) This article explores ideas for teaching students more about these verbs.

What Are Ditransitive Verbs?

Take the following two sentences as an example:

  • I'll cook you dinner.
  • I'll cook dinner for you.

They have the same meaning, but students who process slowly from left to right could read the first one as, "I'll cook you." They may parse the meaning as, "I'll cook you for dinner"; obviously this would confuse them.

In "I'll cook you dinner", both "dinner" and "you" are objects. In a ditransitive verb sentence, the indirect object comes between the verb and the direct object. We can reword a ditransitive verb sentence by switching the order of the objects and inserting "to" or "for". We saw an example of "for" above; here's one with "to":

  • I gave him a present.
  • I gave a present to him.

In this article, you'll see several ideas for using Captur to go over these verbs with your students. Choose one or two of these alternatives for your class. Please don't get the idea that the entire class period should be devoted to this type of drill activity! These activities should be followed up with opportunities for students to use these words in a more communicative context.

Activity for Teaching Ditransitive Verbs

This activity asks students whether or not the sentence could be reworded, as shown on the board:

choice A I _____ for / to you

Choice B I _____ for / to you

If you don't use the Captur board magnets, you can write A: for the first example and B: for the second. With that on the board, the activity would go like this:

Teacher: I'll show you the city.

Students: choice A

Teacher: Right. I'll show you the city. I'll show the city to you. Next. He poured me a drink.

Students: choice A

Teacher: Right. He poured me a drink. He poured a drink for me. Next. I ate my mother's cookies.

Students: Choice B

Teacher: Right. That's not one of these verbs. I ate my mother's cookies. Next. ...

Activity to Teach Prepositions

You can also ask students whether the reworded sentence would contain "to" or "for."

On the board:

choice A I _____ for you

Choice B I _____ to you

So, it would go like this:

Teacher: I'll give you a present.

Students: Choice B

Teacher: Right, "to". I'll give you a present. I'll give a present to you. Next. I'll buy you a present.

Students: choice A

Teacher: Right, "for". I'll buy you a present. I'll buy a present for you.

Continue. Option: have students say the alternative sentence:

Teacher: I'll give you a present.

Students: Choice B

Teacher: Right, "to". I'll give you a present. Change that.

Students: I'll give a present to you.

Teacher: Right. I'll give a present to you. Next. I'll buy you a present.

Students: choice A

Teacher: Right, "for". I'll buy you a present. I'll buy a present for you.

Another Activity: What Wasn't Said

Some verbs can be used both ditransitively and transitively. This can be made into a listening activity. On the board:

choice A I _____ for / to you

Choice B I _____. (maybe for / to someone, but I don't know who)

So, it would go like this:

Teacher: I read the children a book.

Students: choice A

Teacher: Right. I read the children a book. I read the book to the children. Next. I told a story.

Students: Choice B

Teacher: Right. I told a story. I told a story to someone, but we don't know who. Who did I tell the story to? We don't know. Next. I cooked dinner.

Students: Choice B

Teacher: Right. I cooked dinner. Who did I cook for? We don't know. Maybe I cooked dinner for myself. Maybe I cooked dinner for someone else.

Alternative Activity: Ask For More Information

An alternative to this is to leave out either the direct or indirect objects, and have students listen for the missing information. In other words, what information is missing?

choice A Who? (To / For whom?)

Choice B What?

So, it would go like this:

Teacher: I asked a question.

Students: choice A

Teacher: Right. Who did I ask? We don't know. OK, next. I told John.

Students: Choice B

Teacher: Right. What did I ask him? We don't know.

This could be followed up with oral responses from the students:

Teacher: I sent a letter.

Students: choice A

Teacher: Right. Ask me.

Students: Who did you send the letter to?

Of course, if you're teaching strict / traditional grammar, your board will say "To / For whom" and the students will ask, "To whom did you send the letter?"

What Are Some Common Ditransitive Verbs?

  • ask
  • buy
  • give
  • offer
  • send
  • show
  • tell

Others include assign, bet, bring, cost, do, feed, find, get, lend, owe, pass, pay, play (e.g., She played him a song), promise, serve (e.g., He served us dinner), teach, throw, wish, write.

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