Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs (multi-word verbs) are a really important part of the English language, especially for spoken English.

1.  A phrasal verb is a verb plus a particle (either a preposition or an adverb), which creates a meaning different from the original verb. It’s different from just a verb +preposition or a verb+ adverb; prepositions and adverbs add but don’t change the original meaning of the verb.

Example: I ran into my teacher at the movies last night. run + into = meet
I ran into the office last night. run + into = run + direction

2. Some phrasal verbs are intransitive, i.e. they cannot be followed by an object.

Example: He suddenly showed up. “show up” cannot take an object

3. Some phrasal verbs are transitive, i.e. they can be followed by an object.

Example: I made up the story. “story” is the object of “make up”

4. Transitive phrasal verbscan be separable (the object is placed between the verb and the preposition) or inseparable (the object is always placed after the preposition):

I talked my mother into letting me borrow the car. TRANSITIVE
They are looking into the problem. INTRANSITIVE

How do we know which are separable and which are not? Well, you just have to remember the funny dancing I taught you in class (thanks Rogelio for coming up with that brilliant idea), the following particles are the ones you can find in separable verbs:


WARNING! Most transitive phrasal verbs can take a short object in both places.

Example: I looked the number up in the phone book vs I looked up the number in the phone book.

But remember, you must put the object between the verb and the preposition if the object is a pronoun.

Example:I looked it up in the phone book vs I looked up it in the phone book.

Now, look through the following text and tell me which phrasal verbs you can find:

I was brought up in a small town in the countryside. Growing up in the countryside offered lots of advantages for young people. The only problem was that we often got into trouble as we made up stories that we acted out around town. I can remember one particular adventure in particular: One day as we were coming back from school, we came up with the brilliant idea to make out that we were pirates looking for treasure. My best friend Tom said that he made out an enemy ship in the distance. We all ran for cover and picked up a number of rocks to use for ammunition against the ship as we got ready to put together our plan of action. When we were ready to set off on our attack, we slowly went along the path until we were face to face with our enemy – the postman’s truck! The postman was dropping off a package at Mrs. Brown’s house, so we got into his truck. At that point, we really didn’t have any idea about what we were going do next. The radio was playing so we turned down the volume to discuss what we would do next. Jack was all for switching on the motor and getting away with the stolen mail! We all broke out in nervous laughter at the thought of us driving down the road in this stolen Postal Truck. Luckily for us, the postman came running towards us shouting, “What are you kids up to?!”. Of course, we all got out of that truck as quickly as we could and took off down the road.

Can you give me the definition of the ones you find? Have a look at this dictionary of phrasal verbs to help you out!

This entry was posted in Face2face Intermediate, Grammar, Lesson 10, Lesson 3, Lesson 5, Textbook. Bookmark the permalink.

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