The baby has dropped its toy, I'll .............

Options are:

  1. pick up it.

  2. pick it up

In this question I know the answer would be No. 2 — pick it up.

I just need any source, grammar book or dictionary, that affirms not to use the pronoun it after the phrasal verb pick up such as in the first answer.

In other words, a rule that prevent using the pronoun after the phrasal verb pick up.

  • Please don't call it a 'phrasal verb'; there's really no such thing! "Pick" is here a 'prepositional verb' because it selects the preposition "up" as its complement. The order 'particle + object' is inadmissible if the object has the form of an unstressed personal pronoun, as it does in "pick up it". Compare "pick Ed up" ~ "pick up Ed".
    – BillJ
    Commented Nov 19, 2022 at 15:12
  • You'll find optionally separable (not for many pronoun objects/complements, as @BillJ says) (she turned on the light / turned the light / it on), mandatorily separable (his coach got him / John through the hard times, and non-separable (they look after their mother) transitive multi-word verbs (I'm using Claudia Claridge's nomenclature) attributed as such in the 'Oxford Phrasal Verbs Dictionary' (they still use ill-defined terminology). Commented Nov 19, 2022 at 15:48
  • 1
    It's all right to call it a 'phrasal verb'; most linguists would say that pick up in that sense was precisely a phrasal verb, because it requires Particle Shift with pronoun objects. That's the basic test for transitive phrasal verbs. Some have different ideas, but we don't try to correct people by decree here. Commented Nov 19, 2022 at 17:33
  • 2
    @Billj It doesn't matter whether it's misleading; it's the term we've got for a specific and well-known phenomenon. Nobody cares what it might imply, in the theory you favor; after all, everybody's got their own theory. Gods know that "future tense", for instance, has not yet disappeared, despite the fact that it implies that there is a future tense in English, which is false. Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 16:58
  • 1
    @BillJ You don't need to correct students, at least not if your intention is to help them learn. I've never met a student whose learning was harmed because of the technical inaccuracy of the term "phrasal verb". They all know that the term refers to that type of verb. It could reasonably harm a student to tell them that "pick up" is not a phrasal verb when all the resources they're given say it is, and none of their resources mention "prepositional verbs".
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 20:10

1 Answer 1


You find this rule in the OALD, paper edition from 2005.

When the object is a pronoun (for example it standing for 'the letter' in "She tore the letter up."), it must always go between the verb and the particle:

  • She read the letter and she tore it up.

OALD: Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English, A S Hornby

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