English XP

Phrasal Verbs

phrasal verbs

What Are Phrasal Verbs?

I got on the bus.

I took the TV apart.

Clean up that mess!

Phrasal verbs are made up of a verb combined with either an adverb, a preposition or sometimes both. Sometimes there will be a single word equivalent that could be used instead.

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.

Multiple Meanings

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

Phrasal Verb

call off

carry on

come in

get away

give up

hang up

pass out

put on

put down

turn on


cancel a plan




stop trying

end a phone call

fall asleep or unconscious

start wearing something

place something

activate a device.

Example Sentence

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?

What is a phrasal verb?
Which is an example of a transitive phrasal verb?
Which is an example of an intransitive phrasal verb?
Which is an example of a separable phrasal verb?
Which is an example of an inseparable phrasal verb?
Which is not a correct meaning of the phrasal verb "back up"?
What does "give up" mean?
What does "carry on" mean?
What does "pass out" mean?
What does "put up with" mean?
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Phrasal Verbs
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