What are Phrasal Verbs

What are Phrasal Verbs

Some verbs in English can be made up of more than one word. Such verbs generally consist of a verb and a preposition or adverb. Therefore, a phrasal verb is a verb that consists of a verb and another element. The addition of the new element often creates a new meaning for the verb. For example,

He turned down the job offer.  (turn + down = refuse)

I ran into your husband yesterday at the market. (run + into) = meet

You can count on me. (count + on = trust)

Examples of  Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal Verb




Look into

Look + into


The police looked into the matter.

Get away

Get + away


You cannot get away easily.

Run out of

Run + out + of

Use up one’s supply of something.

We ran out of milk this morning.

Hand in

Hand + in


You have to hand in the report by tomorrow.

Hold on to

Hold + on + to

Grasp tightly

Don’t move, hold on to the rail.

Pass out

Pass + out

Lose consciousness/faint

She passed out on the stairs.

Break into

Break + into

Enter forcibly

The firemen broke into the house to rescue the old woman.

Some phrasal verbs are intransitive. This means that they cannot take an object.


His boss suddenly showed up.

Some phrasal verbs can be followed by an object. These are called transitive phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs can be divided into separable phrasal verbs and inseparable phrasal verbs. This categorization is based on the position of the object.

Separable Phrasal Verbs

Separable phrasal verbs are the verbs where the object is placed between the verb and the preposition/adverb. Here, the verb and the particle can be separated.

He talked his mother into lending him money.

Your radio is too loud, please turn the volume down.

Write this down before you forget.

Inseparable Phrasal Verbs

Unlike separable phrasal verbs, some phrasal verbs cannot be separated. The object is placed after the particle in such verbs.

I ran into some friends of yours.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over his loss.

His youngest son takes after his wife.

However, some transitive phrasal verbs can take an object in both places.

She gave your dress back. = She gave back your dress.

What are Phrasal Verbs

He looked up the word in the dictionary.

Phrasal Verbs with Prepositions

Although many transitive verbs can take objects in both positions, the object must be between the verb and the preposition if the object is a personal pronoun.

He gave your money back.→ He gave it back. 

I looked your number up in the phone book.→ I looked it up. 

 We’ll be leaving behind our son.→ We’ll be leaving him behind.

Phrasal Verbs – Summary

  • A phrasal verb is a verb followed by a preposition or an adjective.
  • The addition of the preposition or adjective changes the meaning of the original verb.
  • Phrasal verbs can be classified as separable phrasal verbs and inseparable phrasal verbs according to the position of objects.

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