Usually people say "make something difficult". But, like how you can both say "turn the light off" and "turn off the light", can you also say "make difficult something"?

For example, apparently

She made clear that our happiness was important to her into the bargain

is wrong and should be, 'she made it clear that...'


A small amount of toxin in the drug makes difficult the decision to use it on weaker patients

is okay.

I am a little confused as to whether the object of the verb can move freely between the verb and the objective complement like it does in phrasal verbs, or whether that depends on what the object is or how what form it is in.

  • These are verbal idioms, where "make clear" and "make difficult" consist of verb+adjective. The difference is that In the former "it" is optional, whereas in "make difficult" "it" is inadmissible. – BillJ Jul 8 '18 at 8:23

Consider these four sentences:

1a. Please turn the light off
1b. Please turn off the light
2a. Please turn the light outside the kitchen door off
2b. Please turn off the light outside the kitchen door

All of these sentences are grammatically correct, but I would marginally prefer 1a over 1b, and strongly prefer 2b over 2a. The difference is the length of the noun phrase: if it's too long, we have forgotten about the first part of the phrasal verb before we get to the second part.

Inversion (moving the object after the second word of the phrasal verb) is, in my opinion, the preferred option when the noun phrase is more than three words.

Looking at your first sentence, our happiness was important to her into the bargain is not a noun phrase: it's a clause, and cannot be the object of make. So, we use it as the object, and then use that to append the rest as a relative clause. You cannot simply omit it, because then there would be no object.

Moving on to the second sentence, the decision to use it on weaker patients is the object: it's more than three words, so inversion is the preferred version.

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