What Are Phrasal Verbs?
I got on the bus.
I took the TV apart.
Clean up that mess!
He was brought up by his grandparents.
He was raised by his grandparents.
It’s interesting to note also that sometimes we are able to guess the meaning of a phrasal verb that we haven’t encountered before simply by looking at the components that make it up:
Please give that back to me. (Please return that to me.)
Sometimes though, it can be almost impossible to know what is happening without looking up the definition:
I can’t put up with him. (I can’t tolerate him.)
It’s important to note that our verbs still need to obey the usual rules with regards to tenses and subject verb agreement. There are different types of phrasal verb and we have to use each type in a slightly different way to be grammatically correct. We usually look at these types in terms of whether they are transitive / intransitive as well if they can be separated.
Transitive Phrasal Verbs
Transitive verbs are verbs that require an object. Likewise whenever we use a transitive phrasal verb, there must also be an object.
I looked after his dog.
I woke him up.
He took off his jacket.
Intransitive Phrasal Verbs
Intransitive phrasal verbs no not take an object.
I didn’t back down.
The TV broke down.
he eats out regularly.
These intransitive phrasal verbs also cannot be separated. The verb and the rest of the phrase must be next to each other in the sentence.
Separable Phrasal Verbs
Some transitive phrasal verbs can be separable. This means that they can be next to each other in a sentence:
Please close down the computer.
However, we could also put the object in the middle of our phrasal verb like so:
Please close the computer down.
It’s worth noting that there are some phrasal verbs that are permanently separated, that is we must always have an object in the middle.
Can someone please shut her up?
Inseparable Phrasal Verbs
Finally, we have inseparable phrasal verbs which as you can guess, are where we cannot separate the verb from the rest of the phrase. As mentioned, intransitive phrasal verbs are always inseparable. However, some transitive phrasal verbs are also inseparable.
Please look after my plant while I’m on holiday.
Make sure to check out of the hotel by 12:00.
I ran into dave earlier in town.
Some phrasal verbs can have different definitions depending on the context.
Make sure to back up your hard drive regularly. (make a copy of data)
It’s a dead end, let’s back up. (move backwards)
I can’t drive anywhere, the road is backed up (blocked, causing delay)
Will you back me up if a fight happens? (give support)
Common Phrasal Verb List
cancel a plan
end a phone call
fall asleep or unconscious
start wearing something
activate a device.
He called off the wedding.
Sorry, please carry on.
Please come in.
I managed to get away.
Don’t give up!
I will hang up now.
She passed out at 23:00.
I will put on my shoes.
Put that book down now!
I turned my phone on.
This is only a small selection of examples, here is the link to a more extensive phrasal verbs list.
Phrasal Verbs Quiz
What do you remember from the lesson?