Is it correct to say you will "break in a pair of shoes" or you will "break a pair of shoes in". I'm not sure if it's regional, or just altogether unimportant, but I've certainly heard both and I was wondering if there is a more technically correct way to phrase it.

Another example would be "To break in a glove" or "To break a glove in".

1 Answer 1


The Oxford Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs marks this sense of break in as being optionally separable. That is, 'break in [something]' and 'break [something] in' are both acceptable (this is not the case with all multi-word verbs).

There are two provisos:

(1) the MWV is obligatorily separable with pronoun 'prepositional objects' ('break them in', not 'break in them')

(2) the MWV is obligatorily inseparable for weightier 'prepositional objects' ( Over the next few weeks, the wranglers broke in the dozen or so wild mustangs that the cowboys had managed to corral in the box canyon).


There is a requirement with this MWV that the referent of the 'prepositional object' be of a rather more exacting nature than say a feather duster. Gloves are probably borderline. You'd only use 'I broke in a new feather duster' whimsically. // I'd prefer object of the transitive MWV to 'prepositional object' here.

  • 1
    I cancelled the down-vote as I appreciate that you cannot link to the OED of Phrasal Verbs as it is not online.
    – Nigel J
    May 11, 2018 at 12:30

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