We seek to know what a particular word means to make sense of a phrase, and we also try to make sense of a phrase to be able to understand the holistic meaning of a clause.
Once we understand what the clause means, we can then go back to the specific linguistic elements that govern the creation of a holistic unit of comprehensible meaning.
These are just the basics of language studies, and we are going to use these principles to make sense of one of the most popular questions over the internet these days — the grammatical quagmire between “sent me” and “sent to me.”
Let’s start with a simple explanation of their difference.
What’s the difference between using “sent me” and “sent to me”?
The difference lies in the specific objective function of the first-person object pronoun “me” in English. “Me” in “sent me” could either function as a direct object or an indirect object of the verb “sent.” However, “me” in “sent to me” functions as an object of the preposition “to.”
When something is “delivered” in my direction, should we say “sent me” or “sent to me”?
In the literal sense of the verb “to send” which is “to deliver or transmit” an object to a certain location or toward another person, we have to use “sent me” instead of “sent to me,” for example, “He sent me a birthday gift” and not “He sent to me a birthday gift.”
Grammatical essentials on “sent me” and “sent to me”: It’s really just about “me”
The rise and spread of English as a global language have somehow standardized the way we think, act, and do things, thereby making communication a lot more efficient in many ways.
Due to this language trend, many people have also become more curious, and hence keener, about how specific aspects of English grammar works, including both native and non-natives alike.
This is why you’ve reached our humble page today. You are here in the hopes of discovering the most minute nuances of the English language, which is commendable, of course.
So why don’t you give yourself a pat on the back for just being interested in knowing the difference between “sent me” and “sent to me” in the first place?
As stated in the heading of this section, the object of virtu simply lies in the grammatical case of the pronoun “me,” which you will completely understand in-depth in a bit.
The first thing you need to do, though, is get yourself acquainted with the “objective grammatical case of nouns and pronouns.”
Interestingly enough, English teachers, language experts, and language enthusiasts are often familiar with this grammatical case.
But, the general public may think that this is an alien concept because, apparently, this is not something that can just be inadvertently picked up from the social environment.
So, without further ado, let’s get right into the nooks and crannies of the objective grammatical case in the English language.
Please note that this post only focuses on the English language alone, and thus, other grammatical cases existing in other languages will not be covered, okay?
The objective grammatical case of nouns and pronouns
English has three major grammatical cases, and they are the “subjective or nominative case,” the “possessive or genitive case,” and the “objective or accusative case.”
As you may figure, the subjective or nominative case refers to nouns and pronouns being used in the subject part of the sentence, while the possessive case is represented by those that denote possession or belongingness.
On the other hand, the objective case simply reflects those nouns and pronouns used as objects in the sentence; hence, this concept represents those words that are being acted upon by the verb.
In a nutshell, the objective grammatical case does not reflect the noun or pronoun doing the action because that’s what you would call, once again, the subjective case.
It does not function as a complement, which is a word or phrase used to essentially complete the meaning of the sentence.
It is not the modifier either because this one is a word or a phrase that adds nonessential meaning to the clause or sentence.
The difference between a complement and a modifier is their grammatical necessity to complete the meaning of the sentence; the former is crucial, while the latter isn’t.
Therefore, removing the complement would make the sentence problematic, but removing the modifier would not really hurt the sentence’s grammaticality.
The objective case can be found in the predicate part, especially immediately after the verb, which is also known as the “predicator.”
And, nouns and pronouns reflecting the objective case function in three different ways: as direct objects, as indirect objects, and as objects of the preposition.
Getting to know these functions is extremely critical in understanding the subtleties behind “sent me” and “sent to me,” so I hope you’re still with me.
The objective case denoting the use of nouns and pronouns as a direct object is also more technically known as the “accusative case.”
This grammatical concept only makes use of transitive verbs and not linking verbs, which is also one property of the verb “to send.”
“To send” or simply “send” is a transitive verb that has the ability to act upon a direct object, which also simply means that it can “directly affect” a person or a thing.
Example (“to send” as a transitive verb):
The verb “to send” can directly perform an act to the object pronoun “me,” thereby making the object first-person object pronoun “me” a direct object.
In its transitive form, and at least in the example sentence given, “to send” formally means to make sure that the object “me” has attained some form of education.
Put simply, “to send” in the context of the example sentence means “to direct” or “to request” someone to do something.
In the example above, you would notice that “me” is used as the direct object of the verb “sent,” which answers the question “What or who receives the verb?”
The second function of the object pronoun “me” is the “indirect object,” which is simply an additional element to the direct object to show to whom or to what the direct object is intended for.
In contrast to what direct objects do, indirect objects only make use of intransitive verbs or verbs that are not able to take objects directly, thereby making indirect objects nouns or pronouns able to receive direct objects.
This is also more technically known as the “dative case” in grammar studies which represents the idea that something can “move” toward the referred noun.
If you notice, this sentence structure is often used in casual conversations rather than in formalistic ones, which are generally more rigid and longer.
In the example given, you would observe that “me” is used as the indirect object of the verb “sent,” which basically answers the question “To whom was the verb acting upon?”
Object of the preposition
The third and last function of the pronoun “me” is to serve as the object of the preposition, which is “to” in the phrase “sent to me.”
Phrases that are made up of a preposition and a noun or pronoun are called prepositional phrases, which can also be found in the object position in a sentence.
This function is also marked by the use of the dative case because indirect objects are typically introduced by prepositions, such as “to” in “sent to me.”
Similarly, this one also makes use of an intransitive verb in the context of “sent to me,” minus the presence of any other linguistic elements before and after the phrase.
When nouns and pronouns function as the object of the preposition, they are used to answer the question “whom” or “what” after the preposition.
In standard English, putting the prepositional phrase “to me” right after the verb “sent” is considered syntactically stilted even if it is contextually understandable.
So you had better avoid the following sentence unless you are trying to emphasize yourself being the receiver of the “money” for stylistic reasons.
“Sent me” vs. “sent to me” in a nutshell
In a nutshell, you can use “sent me” and “sent to me” as subject modifiers, which are, again, elements that are not essential to the meaning of the clause or sentence, and thus removable.
Subject modifiers can be found after the nominal subject, which means nouns or pronouns functioning as subjects in the sentence that are located before the auxiliary verb.
In the example below, the connecting device “that” may or may not also be inserted after the complete subject which is “The letters.”
But, you can only use “to me” as a prepositional phrase functioning as a verb modifier after an auxiliary verb. In this particular structure, we cannot just put “sent me” after the auxiliary verb.
Verb modifiers can be found after the verb, and they are words or phrases that modify a verb to tell you more about how or under what condition the verb is done.
The sent-to-me word order is commonly found in sentences in the passive instead of the active voice of speech, which is a grammatical means of making the subject “being acted upon” by the verb rather than the other way around.
Frequently Asked Questions on “‘Sent me’ vs. ‘Sent to me’”
What do “send me” and “send to me” mean?
“Send me” could either mean someone or something “delivered” you something or someone or something “prompted” you to do something. Meanwhile, “send to me” only means that a person or any other entity is sent or delivered in your direction.
What does “someone sent me this mean”?
“Someone sent me this” means that another person, often someone who is unknown or unfamiliar, delivered some information or item that is intended for you.
Which is grammatically correct, “please send me” or “please sent me”?
“Please send me” is grammatically correct because it is the standard structure in the English vocative case, which means addressing a person or any other entity directly. This is also known as the “direct address” concept in English.
Whether we like it or not, grammar-related inquiries will, and must, exist for as long as we are prompted to use language in our daily lives to make civilization thrive.
Language is simply another whimsical living organism that is pivotal in human survival, and thus, having concerns, especially grammatical ones, in relation to it is utterly normal.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.