I just came across an ESL student writing "to calm down your followers". I much prefer "to calm your followers down". Does anyone agree? If so, why? "Calm down" is generally considered a phrasal verb, but if my reaction is shared by others, then here "calm", in its transitive sense, is behaving more like a simple verb plus locational adverb, in which case the object "followers" naturally comes before the adverb--*"I sent to New York the package." Compare "I sent home X", which sounds a bit better with some direct objects than others; "I sent home the students" will pass, in my book, though most other objects don't. I don't like "I sent home Jerome" as much as "I sent Jerome home", though this may be more a matter of good style than grammar. Note finally that the best opposite to "calm down" I can think of is "stir up", but this seems to behave like a conventional phrasal verb; for my part I have no objection to "to stir up your followers." Again, does anyone agree? Why or why not?

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    'Calm down' is certainly a transitive or intransitive multi-word verb (called 'phrasal verb' by some). But it is optionally separable. Yes, pronouns must be placed between simplex verb and particle, and 'We must calm down John' (John not being addressed!) sounds unnatural, but weightier NPs are far better postposed. With 'your followers', either position (before or after the particle down) works fine, and you can experiment with the different emphases. Nov 28, 2021 at 17:57
  • Please, what is that duplicate question? I am new to Stack Exchange, and searched as best I could for previous posts. But to defend myself a little, my claim is that "to calm down your supporters" is so far inferior to the separated form that what we have here is not optional separability, but mandatory separability, i.e. i s not a phrasal verb, no matter how much that is true of the intransitive form. I ask that the question not be shut down until we get more response, and again, what is the duplicate question, and why didn't it come up with the search term "calm down separable"? Nov 28, 2021 at 18:13
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    Yes and no. Now that I know about that question, I will reformulate and contribute to that string, but my question is not the same as that one. The broader question is, "are separation practices of verb + particle combinations entirely rule-based, or do individual combinations behave idiosyncratically?" Put another way, "Is there a black and white line between what is a phrasal verb, and what is a simple verb + prepositional phrase?" Nov 28, 2021 at 19:55
  • NP objects of phrasal verbs can appear either before or after the preposition/particle. But the longer and more complex the object phrase is, the better it will go at the end, where it's easier to parse. This is not really a problem with someone (like it would be with someone who'd had too much to drink) but that's three syllables and two morphemes, both quantifiers. A heavy word. Nov 28, 2021 at 20:23
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    Calm down your followers sounds OK to me, but calm down someone does not. Not sure why that should be though.
    – Casey
    Nov 29, 2021 at 3:10


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