I wrote him

Guest   Thu Feb 01, 2007 7:06 pm GMT
Does anyone know how the phrase 'I wrote him' came to be acceptable in American English, whereas it is totally wrong in British English, where it has to be 'I wrote TO him'. I remember when I first encountered this in an American book and it seemed so strange. I think to a BrE speaker it sounds very wrong grammatically, like something a non-native speaker might come out with. This doesn't mean I actually think it's wrong for the Americans to say it though. Is it actually acceptable everywhere in the States?
Guest   Fri Feb 02, 2007 2:32 am GMT
I think 'I wrote him' is short for 'I wrote him a letter/email', because you wouldn't say 'I write to him a letter'.
Jim   Fri Feb 02, 2007 6:45 am GMT
One might equally say "I think 'I wrote him' is short for 'I wrote to him', because you wouldn't say 'I write to him a letter'."

It is interesting. Of course, "I wrote him." sounds completely wrong to my Australian ears also ... except for the fact that I know it's okay in American English.
02IC   Fri Feb 02, 2007 9:41 am GMT
There's absolutely nothing wrong with "I wrote him."

I'm not sure whether it has become that way by process of ellipsis ("I wrote [to] him") or possibly because the AE dialects have preserved what might be considered an archaic grammatical construction in modern BE.

As with any regionalism, it's understandable that it will sound "wrong" to those who don't use it in their own dialect (look at the silly fuss over "needs cleaned" in this very same forum).
Uriel   Fri Feb 02, 2007 11:27 am GMT
It's perfectly normal to Americans. It's the same idea as "I called him" or "I phoned him" or "I mailed him (a letter)."

But we can also say "I wrote to him" if we like -- they coexist.
Uriel   Fri Feb 02, 2007 11:29 am GMT
And didn't Joe Cocker -- a Brit -- sing, "My baby, she wrote me a letter"? Same idea, different pronoun.

(Of course, I know he didn't write the song... but he mustered up the courage to drop the "to"!)
Guest   Fri Feb 02, 2007 12:42 pm GMT
But the thing is it is grammatically completely different. In BrE the verb 'to write' has to take the indirect object, but in AmE it can take the direct object. To me 'I wrote him' sounds like you are saying that you wrote down the word 'him'.
Guest   Fri Feb 02, 2007 12:52 pm GMT
>>"My baby, she wrote me a letter"? <<

No, that's different, as it's still the indirect object. English normally expresses the indirect object by adding 'to' i.e. I wrote to him, but it can sometimes omit this if the word order is such that the indirect object comes before the direct object, as in the example above. For example 'He gave the book to me' but 'He gave me the book').Therefore the above example is acceptable in BrE because the direct object i.e. 'the letter' is also present in the sentence.
Guest   Fri Feb 02, 2007 1:11 pm GMT
But then again, as you say 'I mailed him' is ok (in BrE also), and that doesn't sound to me like you are saying 'I picked him up and popped him in the postbox' lol
Uriel   Sat Feb 03, 2007 10:55 am GMT
I guess we're just weird that way, then!
Jim   Sun Feb 04, 2007 11:44 pm GMT
Note that I don't say that there is anything wrong with "I wrote him." I simply say that it sounds wrong to me &, yes, this is because it would never be used in my dialect. What's interesting is that "I mailed him." sounds equally wrong: just as if you'd picked him up and popped him in the postbox.
zzz   Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:21 am GMT
>> What's interesting is that "I mailed him." sounds equally wrong: just as if you'd picked him up and popped him in the postbox. <<

Hmm. I'm not quite understanding. If you said "I mailed him <period>" then it sounds like you put him in the mailbox. If, however, you said "I mailed him a letter" then it means that you sent a letter to him. So are we talking about the full sentence, or just the sentence fragment? I'm an NAE speaker, and would never say "I mailed him", unless I put him in the box.
Jim   Mon Feb 05, 2007 9:01 am GMT
What I was talking about was "I mailed him." not "I mailed him a letter."
Guest   Mon Feb 05, 2007 9:23 pm GMT
I am American (from New York) and do not say "I wrote him". I say "I wrote to him". To me "I wrote him" sounds rather peculiar but not impossible. "Him" in "I wrote him" is still an indirect object. It is like "I told him", not like "I called him." It is not like "I mailed him a letter" either, because you cannot reduce that and retain the meaning ("I mailed him"), whereas in this construction the whole reason why we are discussing it is that (at least in some varieties of English) you can.
Uriel   Sat Feb 10, 2007 11:26 am GMT
How about "I wrote him back"? I could never fit a "to" in there, unless I altered the word order -- "I wrote back to him".