Phrasal verbs are verbs which have a main verb and a particle which, together, create one meaning (e.g. a plane takes off from the airport; an adult looks after a child). You will come across a great many phrasal verbs when you listen to and read English, and so it is important that you learn about their meanings and about how they are used. There are more than 5,000 phrasal verbs and related noun and adjective forms in use in English.
What are phrasal verbs?
Phrasal verbs are verbs that consist of a verb and a particle
|look||UP||You can look up any new words in your dictionary||You can find the meaning of any new words in your dictionary|
|get||through||tried to phone her but 1 couldn’t get through||tried to phone her but 1 couldn’t get a connection|
|make||out||just can’t make Jim out at all||just can’t understand Jim’s behaviour|
Particles are small words which you already know as prepositions or adverbs. Here are some of the most common phrasal verb particles: about (a)round at away back down for in into off on out over through to up
What do I need to know about phrasal verbs?
First you need to know the meaning of the whole phrasal verb as a unit. For example, look means to use your eyes and up means the opposite of down, but the phrasal verb look up can have several different meanings:
- Look the word up in the dictionary [look up = search for information in a book/computer]
- I’ll look you up next time I’m in London [look up = visit someone you have not seen for a long time]
- Things are looking up. [look up = improve]
Next you need to know the grammar patterns of phrasal verbs, e.g. whether the verb takes an object. Note that sth means something; sb means someone.
|eat out||the verb is used without an object||We were too tired to cook at home so we decided to eat out. [eat in a restaurant] Not: We decided to eat out a meal.|
|bring back sth or bring sth back||the verb must have a non-human object||This photograph brings back happy memories, [makes me remember or think about something from the past] Not:This photograph brings back my sister.|
|ask out sb or ask sb out||the verb must have a human object||I’d love to ask Sally out. [invite Sally to go to a place like a cinema or a restaurant] Not: I’d love to ask my dog out.|
|look after sb/sth||the object can be either human or non-human||I’ll look after the baby while you’re cooking. Will you look after my bike while I’m away?|
|ring sb back||the object must come before the particle||I’ll ring you back later, [phone you again] Not: I’ll ring back you:|
|look after sb/sth||the object must come after the particle||Can you look after the dog while I’m away?|
Not: Can you look the dog after while I’m away?
|drop off sb/sth or drop sb/sth off||the object can be before or after the particle||1 dropped off the package at her house, [delivered/left] 1 dropped the package off at her house.|
Classification of phrasal verbs
|The first classification||The second classification|
|multi-word verbs||phrasal verbs|
|intransitive phrasal verbs||intransitive phrasal verbs with adverbs|
|transitive phrasal verbs||intransitive phrasal verbs with prepositions|
|transitive prepositional phrasal verbs||transitive phrasal verbs|
|other structures with multi-word verbs||intransitive 3-word phrasal verbs|
|other multi-word verb constructions||transitive 3-word phrasal verbs|
Examples of the use of phrasal verbs in English
- We need to sort the problem out
- I sent off the order last week but the goods haven’t turned up yet
- Dan called up his friend