I'm aware that both of these constructions are correct:

I cracked open my eyes.

I cracked my eyes open.

Is one construction more common than the other? If so, why?

  • 1
    You definitely do not want to say that. First, it's impossible since eyes are soft. I cracked open the nuts on the table VERSUS I opened my eyes a crack. or I opened the door a crack.
    – Lambie
    Aug 12 '21 at 14:59
  • 3
    @Lambie: That is a very misguided comment. Those are all three perfectly acceptable ways of saying it. See Ngrams. Aug 12 '21 at 15:04
  • 1
    @PeterShor For me, that is not proof of usage I would care to encourage. The fact that "crack open [pronoun] eyes" has many more hits "open [pronoun] eyes a crack" does not change the fact that "crack something open" (like a nut ) and "open something a crack" are quite different.
    – Lambie
    Aug 12 '21 at 15:16
  • 2
    @Lambie: I think the Ngram is proof that the vast majority of native English speakers find "crack open his eyes" perfectly acceptable. You might not find it acceptable, but you are not the Ultimate Arbiter of the English Language. Aug 12 '21 at 15:20
  • @Lambie According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, "crack" can mean: "to break, split, or snap apart." Or "to open slightly."
    – alexchenco
    Aug 12 '21 at 15:36

I was surprised how many hits this NGram search produced. Most are in romantic novels or thrillers: neither are genres where a lot of attention is paid to grammatical accuracy, or idiomatic usage. I would use neither expression.

It seems that "I cracked my eyes open" is somewhat more popular, but the split is only 60/40. When looking at NGrams, that's not a statistically significant difference, especially for an uncommon expression like this one. If it were 70/30 or more, I would start to think that there might be a real difference, but I wouldn't say that there was definitely a preference unless the split was 90/10 or more.

  • What could be the reason for "[verb] my eyes open" being more popular than "[verb] open my eyes"?
    – alexchenco
    Aug 12 '21 at 14:48
  • 1
    Yeah, well, it's completely wrong. You can open your eyes a crack, but you can't crack them open. You can only crack open something that is hard. Ha ha.
    – Lambie
    Aug 12 '21 at 15:01
  • 3
    Compare crack open a bottle (object always after phrasal verb) with crack open the lid... Aug 12 '21 at 15:03
  • 2
    ... where the "lid" version usually keeps the phrasal verb intact. But with crack the door open we're as likely as not to put the object within the phrasal verb. I can't see any obvious reason for such a big different when it's the same verb - just a different object. Just a matter of what gets idiomatically established, I guess. Aug 12 '21 at 15:07
  • 1
    @alexchenco I have updated my answer to elaborate on why I don't think that there is a reason for the difference in NGram figures.
    – JavaLatte
    Aug 13 '21 at 3:38

My sense is that both forms are completey idiomatic. JavaLatte's ngram shows this.

I think the important thing to note here is that the noun phrase my eyes is short and simple. If you were using a lengthier or more complex direct object, the likelihood of open coming at the end would be much less. Here are some examples that are grammatical but of decreasing acceptability on pragmatic grounds:

  • I cracked the door open.

  • I cracked the door John painted open.

  • I cracked the door John painted in August open.

  • I cracked the door John painted in August after I paid him the money I owed him open.


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