Could anyone tell me the difference between"break down the wall" and "break the wall down"?

What would be the correct usage?

  • There's no difference in meaning, and no particular concensus among native speakers as regards whether it's more natural to position the object (the wall) AFTER or WITHIN the phrasal verb (to break down). For learners, by far the most important aspect of such usages is the matter of how the syntax works if the object is a PRONOUN (it's always Break it down, never Break down it). Aug 29, 2020 at 19:06

1 Answer 1


Break down the wall is far more idiomatic than break the wall down.

Despite no real difference in meaning, here is the relevant Ngram:

enter image description here

This pattern seems to apply to many other nouns as well (e.g. house, data, problem, door).

Use break down the wall.

  • I don't know why that particular pair shows such a strong bias towards having the "object" after the phrasal verb, but it certainly doesn't apply to break the problem down / break down the problem. Aug 29, 2020 at 17:51
  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica I find it strange that the Ngram wouldn't show both if they were so close together. I thought it showed the top results, but apparently not. Aug 29, 2020 at 17:53
  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica I took out the entire section because I wildly misinterpreted the graph. Aug 29, 2020 at 17:59
  • I thought your other graph made sense. Can you explain what was wrong with it?
    – Eddie Kal
    Aug 29, 2020 at 18:07
  • @EddieKal It did not show the top results, for example, it showed break the house down but not the more common break down the house. So it lead to wrong conclusions. Aug 29, 2020 at 18:09

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