I'm going to liven myself up a little by going for a run.

I found the above sentence from Cambridge Dictionary, and can I rewrite the sentence as I'm going to liven up myself a little by going for a run?

I know when the direct object of the phrasal verb is a pronoun (like it), you cannot use the inseparable way. That means we have to put the pronoun right after the verb. But for a reflexive pronoun, is the rule same? Is my rewrite correct?

  • Even better, you can always Lively Up Yourself. Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 5:21
  • @P.E.Dant Is this from a song?
    – Henry Wang
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 10:05
  • Do you know what a hyperlink is? Did you know that if you click on the dark blue words "Lively Up Yourself", you will be magically transported to another website? Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 18:14
  • It's grammatical but borderline nonsense, IMO. You can liven things up, but you cannot liven yourself up. You can say "She breathed new life into the party" but not "She breathed new life into herself", right?
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 20:54

2 Answers 2


Like many English words, up can be either an adverb or a preposition, and it's sometimes difficult to work out which is which, especially when it's in a phrasal verb that has a different meaning to the simple verb.

There are not so many reflexive verbs, but the rules are the same for a normal object-pronoun, so I will make some examples with non-reflexive verbs.

For adverbs, the object goes between the verb and the adverb unless it's a long or complex noun phrase. A simple pronoun is very short, so it always goes between:

Can you look it up in the dictionary?
There's no need to test the engine now: we can run it after.
The suitcase is in the attic. Can you get it down for me?

For prepositions, the object goes after the preposition:

This is a telescope. If you look up it, you can see the stars.
The cat ran after it.
That hole is pretty small. Do you think that you can get down it?

It is easy to find phrasal verbs that are only adverbal for example open it up, and phrasal verbs that are only prepositional, for example look after it, but generally even if apparently the same phrasal verb has both adverbal and prepositional usages, the meanings are usually different.

For adverbal phrasal verbs where the object is not a pronoun, it is possible to construct sentences that have the same meaning with the object in the middle or final position:

He handed over the money
He handed the money over

In Lively yourself up, the meaning of up is adverbal. In the Bob Marley song that the estimable Mr Dant provided a link to, Mr Marley clearly thinks that it has the same meaning:

Lively up yourself and don't be no drag

Bear in mind, though, that Mr Marley is not exactly a good role model for English Grammar.

There is more information about phrasal verb ordering on the British Council site, although it does not offer any guidance about when a phrasal verb can have one or two patterns.

  • I'm not sure I understand your examples "where the meaning is the same". If fail to stop for a ball in the street I might run it over or run over it. But if my kid leaves his homework in the car, I can run it over [to the school], but not run over it. Right?
    – Chaim
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 18:19
  • @Chaim: point taken. the problem is that over has several meanings. Some are valid as both adverbs and prepositions: others only as prepositions. The example of the ball is valid for both, but in the homework example the meaning is changing position, which is valid only as an adverb. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/over To avoid confusion, I have changed the examples.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 18:46

The pronoun, reflexive or not, always goes between the verb and the preposition.

I'm going to liven myself up.

I'm going to lift her up.

I'm going to throw you out.

He washed himself out of the cadet program.

We never say "liven up myself" or "throw out you" or "washed out himself" in any of these.

See Language Log for more information. Note that there is an example there which seems to contradict the above, but it is an edge case:

But that's the same with any creative process; if you don't do it yourself or at least look over it, then you're not really in control.

There is an interesting discussion about that particular usage, which suggests reasons for its outlier status.

  • But wouldn't I say "The chef livened up the salad by adding lemon juice to the dressing", rather than "The chef livened the salad up by..."?
    – John Feltz
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 21:53
  • @JohnFeltz: Maybe you wouldn't, but I would.
    – Robusto
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 22:19
  • 1
    In many of your examples, up, out, etc are functioning as adverbs not prepositions. Furthermore, if they were prepositions, then the pronoun has to be after the preposition (other than the case of a dangling preposition where the object of the preposition is in a different phrase/clause)
    – eques
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 15:26

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