I don't know if it's part of my regional dialect, but around these parts we use the phrase "pull to" to mean 'close the door all the way.' It wasn't until last week that it struck me as odd. Pull the door to...what? To itself?

I didn't find much explanation on pull to as a phrasal verb, but a friend pointed out that it was probably like "come to", which he always figured was reflexive and essentially a shortening of "come to one's senses".

So in terms of these two phrasal verbs, pull to and come to, are they reflexive? And if so, why does the object get dropped? Is that a usual occurrence or do these two examples represent some kind of unusual feature of English?

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    Are you in Pennsylvania, by any chance? My first thought is German influence via Pennsylvania Dutch (or similar). The to not being a preposition, but a separable prefix.
    – RegDwigнt
    Oct 15, 2013 at 14:17
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    OED's first citation is from 1673, a stage direction "She pulls the door to."
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 15, 2013 at 14:26
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    @RegDwigнt I can't hazard its origins but my guess is this is a common expression, because my first thought was 'Are you in Yorkshire, by any chance?' "Pull the door to" (as an instruction to another) would be a good example of why it's perfectly Ok to end a sentence with a preposition.
    – Mynamite
    Oct 15, 2013 at 15:29
  • FWIW, I have not heard this phrase in either the Midwest US or East Texas.
    – MrHen
    Oct 15, 2013 at 16:04
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    In Norfolk (eastern county in England), they say 'he pulled the door to'. meaning that he didn't exactly shut the door but just closed it. I suppose it is part of standard Queen's English too, but in spite of having lived away from Norfolk for over 40 years it is one of those things I'm not certain about. Is it just a Norfolk idiom? Can anyone help me? Interestingly when they use it they pronounce the 'to' slightly differently to usual, they say 'tew'. Whereas they would say 'I went t'Norwich', although the 'to' is exactly the same word.
    – WS2
    Oct 15, 2013 at 16:47

2 Answers 2


I believe it means pull to "close". I also found this: "Anticausative" reflexive denotes that the (usually inanimate) subject of the verb undergoes an action or change of state whose agent is unclear or nonexistent. The example that was given was "English - The door (was, got) opened." I believe this could apply to "pull to" or the phrase "pull to close" the door.


"Pull the door to" is a common expression in the Southeastern U.S. It isn't as common as it used to be but my generation still uses it and I'm in my 50's.

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