Why is that "pulled open the door" is a common phrase but not "pushed shut the door?" (In other words, putting "shut" in front of the verb.)

Maybe I'm wrong but "pushed shut the door" sounds a little strange? Why is that?

  • 1
    It is slightly awkward to say the words "pushed shut". It literally "sounds a little strange", as you say. Historically "shut" implied the use of a bolt. It was more secure then "close." We close our mouths when eating, but "Shut up!" or "Shut your mouth!" means 'stop talking!' Predictably, 'Shut' is from Old English and the more elegant 'Close' from Old French. You may find this helpful: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/200396/… Jan 20, 2021 at 11:38
  • It's worth noting that the two sequences pulled open the door and pulled the door open are equally common. Jan 20, 2021 at 11:39
  • ...Also note that there are two different adjectives/adverbs for the "opposite" - pushed the door closed and pushed the door shut (which coincidentally are almost exactly equally popular) Jan 20, 2021 at 11:39
  • ...but you're right to pick up on the somewhat quirky fact that you can pull open the door but idiomatically you don't normally push shut the door. Jan 20, 2021 at 11:41
  • There's no such "lop-sidedness" with turn on the light / turn the light on, where both "opposites" (turn off the light / turn the light off) are perfectly natural. Jan 20, 2021 at 11:48

2 Answers 2


I agree; sounds just a bit odd. Certainly allowable. Maybe pulled open is just a nice, visually descripting sounding thing. Closing a door is a little more restrictive; not a lot of ways to do it; it closes on its own with some hydraulics, or you push on it. It's slower. But if you open the thing, maybe you just turn the knob and open it a tiny hair. Pulling it open really means getting the thing open. I think I've convinced myself, even.

  • The whole world is different now. Jan 20, 2021 at 11:38

Here are a couple of relevant definitions...

phrasal verb
verb + adverb (ex: throw away)
verb + adverb + preposition (Ex: put up with)

prepositional verb
verb + preposition (Ex: look after, look at, wait for, think about, talk about,...)

With a phrasal verb (verb + adverb), the position of the object (a noun) is flexible, i.e. it can sit either between the verb and the adverb or after the adverb:

She took her coat off
(The object her coat is between the verb and the adverb.)
She took off her coat
(The object her coat is after the adverb.)

With prepositional verbs (verb + preposition), the position of the object—regardless of whether it’s a noun or pronoun—is not flexible. The object must sit after the preposition:

We looked after the children
looked the children after
We looked after them
looked them after

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