I came across a saying that "I should have burned this place down when I had a chance".

Why don't they use "burned down this place"?

Are these two clusters the same?


2 Answers 2


In your context the two phrases mean the same, it's just a matter of choice by the writer / speaker. This is an example of English having a somewhat flexible word order.
Note that you could substitute "whilst" for "when" with little change in meaning except "whilst" implies an ongoing period of time (whilst I was employed / studied / stayed there) and "when" is more like a single period of time (minute, hour, day, visit).

  • Why not "while"? Commented Apr 20 at 15:40
  • @KateBunting Yes, that works as well. Commented Apr 20 at 23:29

English has phrasal verbs that are separable and others that are non-seperable.

See the explanation and examples at British Council grammar

For example: burn down is seperable

burn the house down
burn down the house
With the pronoun: burn it down

  • More to the point, tt's optionally separable. There are one or two transitive multi-word verbs that are obligatorily separable. Commented Apr 20 at 15:18
  • @EdwinAshworth I think I made that clear: burn the house down versus burn down the house. I also said there were separable and non-separables ones.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 21 at 14:34

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