Phrasal Verbs

A phrasal verb is a verb which is a phrase rather than a single word. A phrasal verb is made up of a verb + a preposition and/or an particle/adverb. Once put together the phrase creates a verb which has a meaning different from the original verb and may be completely indistinguishable to the meaning of the original verb.

e.g.

Verb + particle

  • I looked up the meaning in the dictionary.
    • look + up = Consult a reference work ( e.g. a dictionary) for information.

Warning! This should not be confused with;

  • I looked up into the sky. This is when the verb and the particle act as separate entities.
    • look + up = look upwards

Verb + preposition

  • She takes after her mother.
    • takes after = resembles or acts like

Verb + particle + preposition

  • She is looking forward to seeing her parents again.
    • look forward to = Await or anticipate with pleasure

Some phrasal verbs are intransitive. An intransitive verb is not followed by an object.
e.g.

  • They all showed up. –“show up” does not take an object
    • show up = to appear or arrive

Some phrasal verbs are transitive. A transitive verb can be followed by an object.
e.g.

  • He looked after his parents “his parents” is the object of “look after”
    • look after = care for

Some transitive phrasal verbs are separable. The object is placed between the verb and the preposition.
e.g.

  • • You can pay the money back to me before the end of the week.
    • pay back = return a loan
  • The skirt is too short? I’ll let it down for you. = Lengthen (skirt, pants)
    • let down = to lengthen ( a skirt or pants)

Some transitive phrasal verbs are inseparable. The object is placed after the preposition / adverb.
e.g.

  • I logged into the computer.
    • log into = Access a program, computer or database electronically
  • My grandparents lived through two wars.
    • lived through = experience something and survive

Some transitive phrasal verbs can take an object in both places.
e.g.

  • I’ll pick the parcel up at the bus station, just let me know what time.
  • I’ll pick up the parcel at the bus station, just let me know what time.
    • pick up = collect

WARNING! Although many phrasal verbs can have an object in both places; if a pronoun is used as the object, you must put the object between the verb and the preposition.
e.g.

  • I’ll pick the parcel up at the bus station.
    I’ll pick up the parcel at the bus station.
    I’ll pick it up at the bus station. (This is correct)
    I’ll pick up it at the bus station. (This is not correct)

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