I stared at my brown sneakers, deciding whether to bring up the subject.
I stared at my brown sneakers, deciding whether to bring the subject up.
What's the different between the two? Are both grammatical? Which one is more common?
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With a verb + preposition combination like this one (sometimes called a separable phrasal verb), we can choose to put the Object either before or after the preposition:
When the Object is a pronoun it must go before the preposition and cannot go afterwards:
Notice here that pronouns are very short, usually only one syllable.
And if the Object is very long, native speakers prefer to put it after the preposition. It can sound very bad if we put a long Object before the preposition:
The Original Poster's question
The Object in the Original Posters question isn't very long. It's only three syllables. It isn't a pronoun either We can choose therefore whether to put it before or after the pronoun. There might be other factors that make us more likely to choose one or the other. For example, whether the subject represents old or new information. Or, maybe more importantly whether one choice is more idiomatic than the other.
In my opinion bring up the subject is more idiomatic than bring the subject up although both are entirely grammatical. Here's an Ngram comparing the two, which seems to back up my idea. Blue shows bring up the subject and red shows bring the subject up. It looks as if bring up the subject might be more idiomatic. However, remember that it's only an Ngram, so there might be other reasons for one being more common than the other:
Edit note: Just to illustrate that native speakers' intuitions may be different, see Racheet's helpful comments below!
They will both be understood, but you might choose one or the other depending upon if 'the subject' is already known. For example:
"I stared at my brown sneakers, thinking about the broken vase, deciding whether or not to bring the subject up."
"I stared at my brown sneakers, deciding whether or not to bring up the subject of the broken vase."