I understand that prepositional phrases can be placed before the subject, for example "In God we trust." I also understand that phrasal verb should not be separated, for example "up I give" does not make sense because "give up" is phrasal verb.

The question is, can I move an adverbial preposition (as opposed to a prepositional phrase), which usually follows the verb immediately but isn't a part of a phrasal verb, to before the subject and form sentences like "in he came", "up he climbed"?

  • 2
    You can, but it will give your sentence more of a "poetic" feel. If that's not what you want, you probably want to avoid this in most instances.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 22:52
  • I'd say it's essentially the same "non-standard sequence" in Up you get!, Off we go! - so not always "poetic / literary". The first of those two is probably better classified as "motherese" (baby-talk). Commented Dec 28, 2019 at 19:29

2 Answers 2


You absolutely can! It adds a nice storytelling or dramatical aspect to your words. I would recommend using this more in written language than spoken language, (since it has a literary/poetic feel to it) though in an exciting anecdote or after-dinner story, this change in word order can really spice up a tale. You can also place a noun between the preposition and the verb.

Up the tree he climbed.

Compare how mundane and ordinary conventional word order might sound in this anecdote:

After running from the police and with his trousers falling down, Bill climbed up the tree with his pants in tatters and his pride in pieces.

We can jazz things up a bit by leading with the preposition:

After running from the police and with his trousers falling down, up the tree Bill climbed with his pants in tatters and his pride in pieces!

TL;DR: This technique is best used in writing since it lends a poetic/literay feel to what you're saying. It is, however, entirely grammatically valid.

  • Thanks for the answer. Part of my question was specifically about if the PP is one preposition alone. I guess I got the answer that it's valid, but is it still common or poetic as compared to PP with prepositions and nouns?
    – NS.X.
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 23:40
  • I think my answer covers more than one preposition. That is to say it doesn't really matter if there's more than one: Up and over they went | Down to the bottom they came.
    – JMB
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 10:11

Although I agree with JMB's answer and JR's comment about this construction sounding somewhat poetic or literary when used in a narrative sense, I would like to add that the imperative forms in conjunction with the verb go are quite prevalent and natural in the spoken language when directing someone to proceed in any given direction. It is not at all uncommon to hear in you go, up you go, down you go, out you go usually a somewhat playful spoken nudge. With a sterner delivery, it can also be a firm dismissal.

  • 1
    Right you are. :-)
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 7:03

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