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Phrasal Verbs

A phrasal verb consists of a verb and a preposition or adverb that modifies or changes the meaning; 'give up' is a phrasal verb that means 'stop doing' something, which is very different from 'give'. The word or words that modify a verb in this manner can also go under the name particle.

Phrasal verbs can be divided into groups:

Intransitive verbs
These don't take an object
They had an argument, but they've made up now.

Inseparable verbs
The object must come after the particle.
They are looking after their grandchildren.

Separable verbs
With some separable verbs, the object must come between the verb and the particle:
The quality of their work sets them apart from their rivals.

In our phrasal verb dictionary, we classify these as Separable [obligatory] With some separable verbs, the object can before or after the particle, though when a pronoun is used it comes before the particle:
Turn the TV off.
Turn off the TV.
Turn it off.

A complex verb made up of a verb (usually one of action or movement) and an adverbial particle (of direction or location). See also: prepositional verb.
According to Logan Pearsall Smith in Words and Idioms (1925), the term was introduced by Henry Bradley, senior editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Examples and Observations:

* "Put out the light, and then put out the light."
(William Shakespeare, Othello)

* "a wind has blown the rain away and blown
the sky away and all the leaves away,
and the trees stand."
(E.E. Cummings, "A Wind Has Blown the Rain Away and Blown")

* "Like compounds, phrasal verbs have semantic coherence, evidenced by the fact that they are sometimes replaceable by single Latinate verbs, as in the following:
o break out -- erupt, escape
o count out -- exclude
o think up -- imagine
o take off -- depart, remove
o work out -- solve
o put off -- delay
o egg on -- incite
o put out -- extinguish
o put off -- postpone
Furthermore, the meaning of the combination of verb and particle in the phrasal verb may be opaque, that is, not predictable from the meaning of the parts."
(Laurel J. Brinton, The Structure of Modern English: A Linguistic Introduction, John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2000)

* "A phrasal verb differs from a sequence of a verb and a preposition (a prepositional verb) in [these] respects. Here call up is a phrasal verb, while call on is only a verb plus a preposition:
1. The particle in a phrasal verb is stressed: They called up the teacher, but not *They called on the teacher.
2. The particle of a phrasal verb can be moved to the end: They called the teacher up, but not *They called the teacher on.
3. The simple verb of a phrasal verb may not be separated from its particle by an adverb: *They called early up the teacher is no good, but They called early on the teacher is fine."
(R.L. Trask, Dictionary of English Grammar, Penguin, 2000)

Also Known As: compound verb, verb phrase, verb-adverb combination, verb-particle combination, two-part verb, three-part verb


  1. Its wonderful phrasal verbs here. If you want to make your English conversation looks natural, so you can now use the Phrasal Verbs.

  2. Well, I am using the phrasal verbs only to ease my nerves when I am speaking with visitors from other countries. It was really difficult to remember or memorize some important phrasal sentences. I will do my best to practice.


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