In sentences like these, the three nouns (or pronouns, in these cases) play different semantic roles, which correspond to grammatical positions and grammatical cases in the sentences:
She is semantically the 'giver' or the 'agent (of giving)'. Grammatically, it is the subject of the sentence and in subjective (or 'nominative') case (i.e. it is she not her).The thing to know about case in English is that noun case was marked in Old English, with five cases distinguished and case marking on nouns as well as pronouns. But Modern English has very little case marking--and that which it has is concentrated in the pronoun system (e.g. I versus me and my). Because Modern English doesn't mark case on regular nouns and only distinguishes subjective (nominative), objective (accusative/dative) and genitive (possessive) on pronouns, we rely on word order to let us know which semantic roles and grammatical relations the nouns are serving. On the other hand, languages that have more robust case systems (like German or Latin) allow for much freer word order. Here's what Everything2.com says about Old English dative:
It is the 'given' or the 'patient' or 'theme' (depending on whose terminology you use) in these sentences; it is the thing that is affected/moved by the giving action. It is in accusative case, although in English, the form of it is no different in the nominative or accusative (or dative, for that matter). Grammatically speaking, it is the direct object [DO] of the sentence.
Me is the 'givee' or the 'goal' in these sentences--it's where the patient 'it' ends up at the conclusion of the described action. We say it's in the dative case, although there is no formal marking on the pronoun that distinguishes the accusative from the dative forms of pronouns in modern English (so accusative and dative can be collectively called 'objective' case in English). Grammatically, it is the indirect object [IO] of the sentence when it doesn't have the to with it, and it is the object of the preposition to when the to is there (although for various reasons, many grammarians call it the 'indirect object' with or without the to).
Dative: The dative case is the indirect object of the sentence. The indirect object is anything that is benefited by an action, best translated as 'to' or 'for'. For example, in the sentence "I gave the keys to Alex," or more realistically, "I gave Alex the keys," 'Alex' would be in the dative case, without a preposition. It's important to note that, although in modern English the word order rules for indirect objects are quite strict (you can't say "I gave to Alex the keys," or "I gave the keys Alex"), this is not true by any means in Old English. The indirect object is clear no matter where it is in the sentence because of inflection, and thus the dative was frequently shuffled around as need dictated. Like the accusative, the dative was used with prepositions, mostly abstract, non-movemental (similarly to modern German).In discussing Modern English, linguists write a lot about 'dative alternation', by which they typically mean the possibility of saying either:
She gave me it. or She gave it to me.But I've seen a lot less written about She gave it me, or similar things like
About a week and a half ago I lost my new bluetooth headset. I was gutted, my wife had just bought it me as a Xmas present and I had lost it. [The Orange Place of Rich, Jan 2007]which are found in British English.
The students also started asking me if I knew this or that model, offering to show it me so that we could do it later in the class... [HLT Magazine, Jan 2004],
Now, sitting at home, I'm limited in the sources that I can access on this topic, but I did find the following in a 1928 review of Jespersen's A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles by George O. Curme (Language, Vol. 4, No. 2):
In Old English, the dative normally followed the direct object when both forms were personal pronouns. It still keeps its old position here, altho it has lost its old distinctive form: 'Show it me' (Pinero, Sweet Lavender, Act II). In America it is more common to employ here the new dative with to: 'Show it to me.' It seems self-evident here that to me is a dative, not a prepositional phrase. It corresponds to the British simple dative me. Moreover, we find in American English the old simple dative alongside the new dative with to: 'I give it to you' or 'I give it you' (Oemler, Slippy McGee, Ch. V). In this position we have two dative forms, the older simple dative and the new dative with to. The new dative is the result of our desire to give the dative a more distinctive form. In America the old simple dative is now common only before a noun used as a direct object. I gave you a book. Elsewhere we feel that the dative should have a distinctive form.By 1937 (Language Vol. 13, No. 3), we have Frederic Cassidy writing:
To use [Jespersen's] Give it him argument to deny a word-order distinction of DO and IO, then is a self-contradiction of the worst sort. At least among nouns, there certainly is such distinction.Now, I don't know how Cassidy's claim that DO-IO order is restricted to it DOs relates to Curme's claim that DO-IO order was the usual order for pronouns in Old English. (Did Curme overlook the fact that it was usually it in that position, or was them equally likely to occur in that position in OE?) The it observation remains true in BrE today, though. There are about 6000 UK Google hits for bought it me (once I sorted out the ones that were about buying something called It's me or the dog), but only three for bought them me.
But even among pronouns what is the true situation? The normal word-order is the same as among nouns, and almost without exception the reverse word-order holds only when it is the DO. In short, this exceptional order is not a free pattern, but a 'bound form' or petrified phrase [...]. It never became an active pattern; neuter it being usually DO and therefore needing no word-order distinction, could violate the ordinary pattern under pressure of rhythmic or other considerations. The nominal order, on the other hand, is a living pattern, permitting all possible combinations of nouns and pronouns and when new words are used, we follow this pattern.
Looking for advice on how to use these forms, there's not much via the Internet. (If I'm going to continue to blog from home, I should really bring my style books back from the office!) The Columbia Guide to Standard American English doesn't acknowledge the existence of the DO-IO order:
Dative is the grammatical case that marked Old English (and Latin) nouns and pronouns functioning as indirect objects or the objects of certain prepositions. Today the preposition to accomplishes periphrastically the dative function as indirect object, as in I gave the keys to him, or syntax does the job alone by putting indirect object before direct object: I gave him the keys.Then we have a Swiss English-teaching site overtly denying the existence of the DO-IO object order:
The simplest way to look for remnants of dative case in English is to ask yourself whether the preposition "to" is being used or whether there is a verb present which would normally require the use of the preposition "to". For example - "give" is the easiest to remember. You don't say "give it me", rather "give it to me". In this case the verb "to give" is said to be a dative verb, and "me" becomes dative. Note that me is exactly the same in accusative and dative case - this is why dative and accusative are said to have merged into what many people call "object case". [[English] Grammar primer part 2: Dative and Genitive Case]Within BrE, there is the perception that the DO-IO order (without to) is (in Better Half's words) "common". The Teaching Grammar site at University College London lists Give it me as 'non-standard' but acceptable in some dialect(s), but doesn't say which ones.While BH associates it with London working class, there's more discussion of it on the web as a feature of Lancashire speech. (Very far away from London, in case English geography is not your strong point.) On the BBC Lancashire site, it says:
Lancashire is a rich area in which to study accent, dialect and grammar as Willem explains: "If I were say, playing with my pen in a very annoying way, and you were to take the pen away from me, I might tell you, "Hey, that's my pen, give it me!" but there's also speakers who wouldn't say "Give it to me!" but who would say "Give me it!" and then there's also speakers who would say "Give it me!" This last order "Give it me!" is not very common in Britain in general, but what we find in Lancashire is it's actually the preferred pattern."The reason I was moved to blog about this phenomenon is that I was hearing it a lot on television last week. One instance was in an ad(vert) for Somerfield supermarkets, in which a woman is complimented on her dress, and she replies "Nigel bought it me". Whether there's been an increase in DO-IO orderings on the television, I cannot say for sure. Still, it strikes me as a symptom of increased tolerance of different dialects on British television and of the increase in use of regional dialects in advertising in particular, where 'northern' can translate into 'trustworthy' or 'down-to-earth'. For more on that point, see voiceover artist Emma Clarke's blog...