I assume that this sentence is correct:

They brought the full force of the law to bear on anyone who criticized the government.

But is this one correct as well?

They brought to bear the full force of the law on anyone who criticized the government.

I couldn't find the latter usage in the dictionaries, but I found one on this page. What's more interesting to me is to know whether we should follow the dictionaries or we can be creative with the order of "something"/"somebody" in similar phrases.

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    In this particular case I would say No, you can't arbitrarily re-order the wording you found in the dictionary. You can (just about) use bring to bear without specifying on what, but separating bring and on sounds a bit like, say, "?Jack and Jill went the hill up". Not what they call a "happy" construction (i.e. - it makes native speakers very unhappy to hear such things). Aug 19, 2013 at 18:09
  • @FumbleFingers Thank you. I wish I could mark your comment as an accepted answer, but there's no button for that here.
    – user1555
    Aug 19, 2013 at 18:43
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    I'll wait a while to see if someone else can give a more "generic" answer (I don't really know the correct terminology here, either). But as a general principle you probably shouldn't try "creatively" rearranging word order unless you've heard more than one native speaker use a form that doesn't match what you find in a dictionary. Often, what's involved here is a matter of idiomatic preference among native speakers, rather than "grammatical rules" as such, so you also need to be wary of picking up non-idiomatic variants from non-native speakers who simply don't know the "norm". Aug 19, 2013 at 20:21
  • Note, FumbleFingers' notice still applies. Don't split bear and on. If the clause is too long/complex, use they brought to bear on anyone, who... the full force of law blah blah blah
    – SF.
    Aug 20, 2013 at 23:10

1 Answer 1


The grammar discourages that. Traditionalists will find it unacceptable, and in your case it would be bad form, considering "the full force of the law" is a fairly short and simple phrase.

This is acceptable though, and even recommended, if the phrase splitting the two words is long, complex, or nests multiple such splits.

What do I mean by nesting?

He brought and put a force to be reckoned with to action to bear

No, that's terrible. Instead, use:

He brought to bear and put to action a force to be reckoned with.

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