You used "an" (English) instead of 'een'. "Ik geef hem een appel" is accepted.
Is there any difference between "Ik geef hem een appel" and "Ik geef een appel aan hem" or are they completely interchangeable?
The fact that two answers are accepted by no means necessarily implies there is no difference between them. In fact, the differences can easily be quite notable, and possibly missing such differences is one of the biggest drawbacks of the Duolingo set-up.
One presumes the differences here aren't so great. However, although grammatical, "I give an apple to him" sounds somewhat awkward to me. Perhaps a similar condition obtains for one of the two Dutch sentences?
' Ik geef hem een appel' and ' ik geef een appel aan hem' have a somewhat different meaning. The first (ik geef hem een appel) is most common, you just give someone something. The second form (ik geef een appel aan hem) stresses more what is given to whom.
@ piguy3, it seems I cannot reply to you last comment (now below this one), so I just add my answer to your comment here: Ik geef een appel aan hem emphasizes both the appel en to whom the apple is given. In speaking you stress either the apple (what) or to him (to whom), or both (but than you sound rather annoyed).
'Ik geef hem een appel' usually emphasizes the apple.
Thanks. Not sure I understand "stresses more what is given to whom," though. The form with "ann hem" emphasizes both the recipient and what is being given more? Or just one of them?
I give him an apple, I read them a book etc is the usual word order in English. I give an apple to him, I read a book to him is acceptable though less usual. Perhaps it is because we achieve economy by losing the preposition to and putting the indirect object him before the direct object apple/book. Whatever the reason, it seems to work better for most people. Is their a difference in meaning? Perhaps the to format stresses the recipient slightly more, but I remain to be convinced.
Now if somebody would just give us similar information about the Dutch sentences :)
"To," "aan," and "naar" are "function words," meaning they represent grammatical relationships, not specific objects, actions, or characteristics. The grammatical relationships represented by function words are rendered according to the grammar of the target language. It is generally not useful to think of them as having translations in and of themselves.
When "to" is acting as a preposition roughly synonymous with "towards" (They're running to/towards their dad), then "naar" is used. "Aan" has a number of uses, sometimes corresponding to English "to" and sometimes not at all.