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I want to know the difference between "I put the clothes on" and "I put on the clothes". Is there any difference in meaning?

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No difference in meaning. –  user21497 Dec 10 '12 at 7:24
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@BillFranke Forgive me if I'm wrong, but couldn't "I put the clothes on" have a different meaning, depending on context? For instance, couldn't it mean "I put the clothes on the line" or something? –  Mr Lister Dec 10 '12 at 7:47
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@Mr Lister: Yes, but those are two different sentences because you've added the line, which changes the verb from the phrasal verb put on to the the normal verb put plus the prepositional phrase on the line. If you've got "There were new clothes on the bed. I put on the clothes." and "There were new clothes on the bed. I put the clothes on.", there's no difference in meaning. –  user21497 Dec 10 '12 at 7:59
    
So long as the end state is the same (i.e., you're wearing the clothes), there's no difference in meaning. –  J.R. Dec 10 '12 at 9:00

1 Answer 1

Put on is a phrasal verb, and transitive phrasal verbs such as this allow movement of the particle, on in this case, when the object is not a pronoun. If the sentences describe the act of dressing, then the meaning is the same.

There may, however, be a difference between British and American English in the choice between the two. The Corpus of Contemporary American English has 23 records for ‘put on my clothes’, but only 9 for ‘put my clothes on’. The British National Corpus has one record for each. These results are not necessarily conclusive, particularly given the virtually insignificant returns from the BNC, but they suggest a tendency which might merit further investigation.

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