do not turn the TV off <vs.> do not turn off the TV

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New Member
Filipino - Tagalog, Bisaya and English
Hello, everyone!

It's me again. I would just like to get your opinion on something that my colleague asked me.

I would like clarify which one is correct, or more grammatically correct:
"Do not turn the TV off" or "Do not turn off the TV"?

I maintain that the (more) correct sentence is the first one (Do not turn the TV off), for the reason that if you substitute "the TV" with "this," you would say "Do not turn THIS off," and not "Do not turn off THIS." Is my logic correct? Am I missing something?

I would love to know what you guys think. Thanks, everyone! :)
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    No, wrong reasoning. With the full noun phrase 'the TV', or any other such noun phrase, they are both exactly equally correct. That's the nature of a particle verb - any particle verb (look up the address / look the address up) - you can put the particle either side.

    However, pronouns behave differently. Only one order is allowed with pronouns: they must come first. 'Turn it off'; 'look me up'. For the purposes of this rule, 'this' is a pronoun, so 'turn this off' and 'look that up'.


    New Member
    Filipino - Tagalog, Bisaya and English
    I see. Thanks for the input, entangledbank. I had to look up verb particles so I could completely understand that. :D

    So, I guess this works for all noun phrases. I did a Google search for "put the fire out" and "put out the fire." I find it interesting that "put the fire out" gave 5,350,000 results, whereas "put out the fire" gave about 20,700,000 results. I guess it's more common to place the entire verb particle before a noun phrase, rather than "splitting" the particle verb; kind of like people preferring not to split infinitives. Heh.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    Having said both phrases to myself until they are starting to be meaningless :), I suspect that

    "Put the fire out" is the imperative: "Hey! Are you mad! Put the fire out!" -> this allows for (i) The first few words to attract the attention of the offender and (ii) for the heavy emphasis of "out", which is the most important word.
    "put out the fire" is the normal use: "Yesterday, a lightning strike ignited the grass but the fire brigade put out the fire."


    New Member
    Filipino - Tagalog, Bisaya and English
    I thought of exactly the same thing, PaulQ. "Put the fire out" allows emphasis on the word "out." I guess it all depends on the context.

    I was able to find this page, though, which tackled this very same topic.

    One of the more curious features of phrasal verbs is that the particle can be moved to follow the next noun phrase in the sentence, with no effect on meaning:

    He turned the light on.
    She looked a friend up.
    I put the fire out.

    In these cases the ‘action’ of the sentence cannot be analyzed without considering the two words together. He didn’t ‘turn’ anything; he ‘turned on’ something. Transformational grammar’s notion of a deep structure altered by transformations can account nicely for this phenomenon.

    Richard Veit
    Professor of English
    University of North Carolina at Wilmington


    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    No, really, it doesn't. Google numbers don't mean anything if they're that close. Both word orders, in general, mean the same and are equally common. By chance fluctuation one or the other might be used more with some particular combinations, but you don't ever have to choose one order or the other. They're both very common, for any such particle verb and any object noun. As for emphasis, well you can emphasize things, and then the order might make a difference, but in most sentences there is no particular emphasis.


    Senior Member
    English - US
    No, really, it doesn't. Google numbers don't mean anything if they're that close.
    It just shows that Google does peculiar things to come up with answers quickly. This is also "interesting":
    "put out the fire" -"put the fire out" gives about 3 million hits that have "put out the fire" but not "put the fire out"
    "put the fire out" -"put out the fire" gives 1.35 million hits that have "put the fire out" but not "put out the fire"
    If there really are 20 million pages that have "put out the fire" but only 3 million that have "put out the fire" but not "put the fire out", then there must be 17 million pages that have both and therefore at least 17 million pages that have "put the fire out", but it says there are only 5 million.
    The numbers are not useful.
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