A series of new ruthenium(II) complexes bearing N-heterocyclic carbene ligands with benzylic groups were prepared by transmetallation reactions between silver(I) N-heterocyclic carbene complexes and [RuCl2(P-cymene)](2). All of the obtained complexes were characterized by FT-IR, H-1 NMR and C-13 NMR spectroscopy, and the molecular structure of compound 3c was also determined by X-ray crystallography. These ruthenium complexes were tested for the alkylation of aromatic amines with a wide range of primary alcohols under solvent-free conditions using the hydrogen borrowing strategy. All of the compounds tested here showed excellent catalytic activity for these reactions and N-monoalkylated products were obtained selectively using 2.5 mol% of the ruthenium complexes. (C) 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.