I wonder about "prepositional verbs" that comes with Object :

Wake me up.


Wake up me.

Switch the lights off.


Switch off the lights

where should we place the preposition ? after the verb or the object ?

2 Answers 2


With true phrasal verbs like switch off and wake up, where the object falls depends on the 'weight' of the object. A 'heavy' object (one with many words) falls after the preposition/particle..

I switched off [the lights in the upstairs hallway, bedrooms, and staircase].
I woke up [those of my exhausted fellows who had collapsed where they stood].

Putting the preposition/particle after such an object strands it too far from the verb, so both readers and hearers have to grope for the structure.

A medium-weight object may come before or after the preposition/particle.

I switched the overhead lights off. OR I switched off the overhead lights.
I woke John and Ryan up. OR I woke up John and Ryan.

But a very light object, like a single preposition, always comes before the preposition/particle.

I switched it off. BUT NOT *I switched off it.
I woke him up. BUT NOT *I woke up him.

What you call off and up here varies among grammarians.

  • I'd say the "very light" objects are only pronouns (you wrote "prepositions", you might want to edit that). For example, a sentence like "Time to wake up Mo." sounds fine to me, and Mo is a proper name.
    – fluffy
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 14:40

These are called as adverbial particles. They have special privilege to fit between the verb and the object noun. I had read it on Swan's PEU.

So, it is preferred this way...

Switch off the light

Switch - verb off - adverbial particle the light - object noun.

  • To defend Swan's name, I'd like to know which entry of Practical English Usage that you refer to. As far as I can recall, Swan don't use the term adverbial particles. (He seems to prefer adverb particles. The closest entry I found is entry 20, where he wrote "Small adverbs like these are usually called 'adverb(ial) particles'." The bigger surprise for me is the term subject noun, which I'm rather sure that he doesn't call it so. I also couldn't find the term subject noun mentioned, not even once, in his book. Do you use a different edition of the book I have? Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 13:49
  • Ah, did I write 'subject'.... it's 'object noun'. Sorry for that terrible mistake. And yes, it's in entry 20.1. The version is fully revised third version.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 8:52

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