John brought Mary a book.

Which does the above sentence mean, John brought a book to Mary or John brought a book for Mary?
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Comments  (Page 2) 
(1) John brought a book to Mary.

In this sentence, the verb 'bring' is dative, and John brought the book and handed over it to the recipient Mary.

(2) John brought a book for Mary.

Here, the verb 'bring' is benefactive; John brought the book, and he might either give the book to the beneficiary Mary, or change his mind and keep the book with him.
Replace the word Mary with 'her' ; it is very clear.

John bought her a book.

John bought her some flowers.

The necessity of 'to' or 'for' doesn't arise.
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Rishonly, I took Latin for only one year. We had genative, ablitive, accusative, and dative - which was very helpful for when I studied German.

Is benefactive one of the cases we would have gotten to if I'd had another year? (It wasn't my fault - they brought Latin in only my senior year - I wasn't around for Year 2!) Does it have its own case?
Hi Grammar Geek,

I wish I knew Latin and German languages. Emotion: smile Regarding your question, the benefactive clause/case is a case in which the 'indirect object' is the beneficiary as a result of the verbal event, and the case normally has two forms. Besides, purely the verb dictates whether the case is 'benefactive' or 'dative'.

(1) Subject + Verb + Indirect object + Object ( John brought Mary a book)

(2) Subject + Verb + Object + "for"+ Indirect object ( John brought a book for Mary)
Hi, Barb,

Benefactive is not a Latin case. Latin uses the dative case for both dative and benefactive relationships, as do all other languages (as far as I know) which have a dative case. The dative/benefactive distinction is one that has been made in English grammar by many linguists for many years. to is called the "goal preposition" and for, the "benefactive preposition" in these constructions. Linguists love terminology! Emotion: smile

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I love that even the native speakers can learn new things here. I actually did study linguistics, but only as an undergraduate. It was a bit of a sampler so we didn't get into that. (But it made watching my own children acquire their language skills even more fascninating!) Since we only scratched the surface of Latin, I though perhaps there were more cases. I guess I forgot vocative too.
Well, I'm told that if case endings aren't your cup of tea, you should steer clear of Finnish, with something like 15 cases! Emotion: smile (I have not verified this factoid.)