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PHRASAL VERBS

Phrasal verbs
What are phrasal verbs?
Using phrasal verbs
Literal and idiomatic phrasal verbs
Understanding phrasal verbs
Commonly used particles
Transitive and intransitive phrasal verbs
What are phrasal verbs?

A phrasal verb (also called a multi-word verb) is a


verb with two or more words. It is a verb combined
with one or more prepositions or adverbs (called
particles):
Have you run (verb) out (particle) of (particle) energy?
This amazing CD and book set will turn (verb) your
life around (particle).

Itll cheer (verb) you up (particle).


Using phrasal verbs

By adding different particles to a


verb, we can change the meaning of
the verb completely. For example
Verb + particle Meaning Example

Does your son take after you


take + after resemble (look like) or your husband?

leave the ground (of Fasten your seatbelts,


take + off aeroplanes) please. Well take off shortly.

accept work Shes just taken on a new project,


take + on
so shes very busy at the moment.

become My brother took over the family


take + over
responsible (for) business when Dad died.

take + to Luckily, Mum and Dad took to my


find likeable new boyfriend immediately.

take + up begin a hobby,


Im thinking about taking up yoga.
sport, etc.
Very often, a phrasal verb has more than one
meaning. For example:
Fasten your seatbelts, please. Well take off shortly.
(= leave the ground)
You can take off the bandages after two weeks.
(= remove)
Shes just taken on a new project, so shes very busy
at the moment. (= accepted)
The company will not take on any more staff.
(= hire/employ)
Im thinking about taking up yoga. (= beginning)
Theyve got an enormous TV. It takes up half the living
room. (= occupies)
Literal and idiomatic phrasal verbs

Sometimes you can work out the meaning of a phrasal verb just
by looking at the individual words. These phrasal verbs are called
literal phrasal verbs:
He put the magazine back after hed finished reading it.
In this sentence, put something back is a literal phrasal verb
meaning return something to its original place.
It was busy, but we managed to get on the train.
In this sentence, get on is a literal phrasal verb meaning enter.
I put up the painting in the living room.
In this sentence, put up is a literal phrasal verb meaning hang
on the wall.
Sometimes, however, a phrasal verb has a meaning which is
completely different from the meaning of the individual words. Its
impossible to guess the meaning of these phrasal verbs if you
dont know the context. We call these phrasal verbs idiomatic
phrasal verbs:
My sister and I dont really get on. I think were too different.
In this sentence, get on is an idiomatic phrasal verb meaning
have a good relationship.
How are you getting on with that book youre writing?
In this sentence, get on is an idiomatic phrasal verb meaning
make progress.
When we were in Rome, Michael put us up.
In this sentence, put up means let someone stay in your home.
Understanding phrasal verbs
It is very easy to understand the meaning of a literal phrasal verb as long
as you know the meaning of the verb and the particle:
We went up to the eighty-eighth floor.
(= We went from a lower position to a higher position.)
Unfamiliar idiomatic phrasal verbs are much more difficult to understand.
They often have several meanings, depending on the context they are
used in:
Can we put off the meeting until tomorrow? (put off = delay/postpone)
What you said about Tracy really put me off her.
(put me off = made me dislike)
I set out at six oclock. (set out = started a journey)

She set out her pens, pencils, books and papers before she started work.
(set out = put things in a particular order)
Still, if you use your imagination, particles can
often give you a clue about the meaning of
idiomatic phrasal verbs as well. For example:
The price of oil went up again today.
(= It went from a lower price to a higher price.)

I cant keep up this speed much longer.


(= I cant continue at this high speed.)
Commonly used particles

The following adverbs and prepositions


are the most commonly used particles in
phrasal verbs
Particle Literal Idiomatic

He was very foolish to run Could you look after my


after dog while Im away?
after the robber.
Back away from the We were turned away because
away dog slowly. we didnt have tickets.

We came back from our Its never a good idea to


back
holiday yesterday. look back on the past.

Put the box down over Sarah, did you take down
down
there. any notes during the class?

for When you get there, ask I dont really care for
for Dr Johnson. Japanese horror films.

in/into The burglar came in Drop in and see me if


through the window. youre in the neighbourhood.
Particle Literal Idiomatic

We got off the train at Lo Its an interesting plan, but


off I dont think itll come off.
Wu station.
Ha! Youve put on your Stop picking on me! Youre
on shirt the wrong way round! such a bully.

He got really angry and Then, suddenly, the light went


out
walked out of the meeting. out.

Linda went over to talk to Youll get over her, dont worry.
over
some guy by the pool. There are lots of other girls.

up She picked up the bottle She picked up Spanish very


from the floor. fast when she was in Madrid.

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Transitive and intransitive phrasal verbs

Some phrasal verbs must be followed by direct objects. We call


these phrasal verbs transitive phrasal verbs:

Could you turn on the lights, please?


Ill look after your dog while youre away.

Some phrasal verbs are never followed by direct objects. These


are called intransitive phrasal verbs:
Im happy with the way it all turned out.
Yes, things are really looking up.
Many transitive phrasal verbs are separable, i.e. we can
choose to place the direct object either
after the particle: Shes heating up the soup.
or between the verb and the particle:
Shes heating the soup up.

Careful: If the direct object is a pronoun, we must place


it between the verb and the particle. We CANNOT place
it after the particle:
Shes heating it up. (NOT Shes heating up it.)
He put us up. (NOT He put up us.)
However, some transitive verbs are
inseparable, i.e. the verb and the particle
cannot be split apart.
The direct object of an inseparable transitive
phrasal verb always comes after the
particle. We CANNOT place it between the
verb and the particle:

Were looking for my cat. Have you seen her?


(NOT Were looking my cat for.)
Intransitive phrasal verbs are always
inseparable. We never put any words between
the verb and the particle:
Things are looking really up.
Things are really looking up.
It all turned really well out.
It all turned out really well.
The plane took successfully off.
The plane took off successfully.
Phrasal verbs with more than one particle (e.g.
put up with) are also usually inseparable:
I look forward very much to seeing you.
I very much look forward to seeing you.
Careful: Many phrasal verbs can be both transitive
and intransitive, with different meanings:

He took off his smelly shoes. (transitive)


The plane took off one hour late. (intransitive)