and phrasal verbs in English
Students of English frequently have
difficulty understanding how to use
in English. And this is not surprising. Though the general
rules are actually quite simple (like most rules of language), it is
sometimes difficult to see the relation between a verb and the
preposition that follows it. Two principal but very different
situations (or deep structures) exist, and unfortunately they (i.e.
their surface structures) can appear to be identical.
the following pairs:
car ran over
car ran it over
run over by the car.
soldiers ran over the field
through the new book
quickly looked looked
looked through by the editor.
looked through the window
at the garden.
through it into at the garden.
off all the dirty marks.
got them all
marks were got off by me. (Improbable, but possible)
off the bus at
it at Bristol
examples on the pink
lines, the preposition is an integral part of the verb,
defining its meaning: these verbs are called phrasal verbs. They
are in effect two-word
the examples on the blue
lines, the preposition affects the meaning of the verb,
but is not
part of the verb; it belongs to the adverb phrase following the verb;
verbs that are used in this way are called prepositional verbs.
These differences are by no means always easy to
understand, particularly in the examples above which show that some
verbs can even be either phrasal or prepositional, depending
the circumstances! However, with the vast majority of verbs, there is no
The verb is either a phrasal verb or a prepositional verb. Here are
some guidelines to help you understand the differences between the two
groups, and their usage..
verbs or Particle verbs
► Phrasal verbs can be either transitive
► Phrasal verbs" or "particle verbs" are composed of a verb
+ a particle
(preposition or adverb). Sometimes, there may be two
► These elements together have a single
and frequently are synonymous with a single word verb, as in the table
► They are usually
formed using a transitive*
root verb + a particle. This is the most common type of
phrasal verb or particle verb.
up / shut out / put off
/ fill up / give up /
set up / etc.
► Others are formed from an intransitive root verb + a particle:
out / come across / sleep off
/ lie down / stand out
Many English root verbs can combine
with particles to create an idiomatic phrasal verb: but the most common
ones are: break,
make, take, set, put,
verbs are usually separable,
meaning that the direct object can - or with pronouns, must - come
between the verb and the particle.
However adverbs do not
usually come between the verb and the particle - though there are
phrasal verbs: examples
referee broke up
the fight immediately.
The referee broke the fight up immediately.
broke it up immediately.
fight was immediately
broken up by the referee.
old lady made out (=wrote) the
cheque very slowly.
The old lady made the cheque out very slowly.
made it out very
made out by the old lady very
when he retired.
He took golf up when he retired.
took it up
when he retired
the alarm as they entered the bank.
The robbers set the alarm off as they entered the
set it off
as they entered the bank
set off as the robbers entered the bank.
to put out (=extinguish) the
fire by themselves.
The men managed to put the fire out by themselves
put it out by themselves.
fire was put
out by the men, by themselves.
soldiers got up
their tents in two minutes.
The soldiers got their tents up in two minutes.
got them up
in two minutes.
got up in two minutes.
your success to
your success down to
put it down to
put down to hard work.
intransitive verbs have no direct object, and cannot be put into the
passive, their usage is simple: they are by definition inseparable.
However adverbs can occasionally
come between the verb and the particle if the adverb serves to describe the action.
► In intransitive phrasal verbs, the particle is either
narrows the sense of the verb (as in
down), or else
creates an idiomatic meaning which is different from that of the root
verb (as in shut up).
are a few examples of intransitive phrasal verbs:
New York will take off
Bird flu first broke out
morning, we all have to get
up at 5.30.
Once the Queen
had taken her place,
the guests all sat quietly
The alarm went off just
the bank was shutting.
transitive: they require an object. This object is
generally stated, but sometimes just implied or inferred.
► Most prepositional verbs consist or an intransitive
root verb + a particle.
► Some prepositional verbs are formed using a transitive verb and a
► Often, the particle transforms an intransitive
verb into a transitive verb:
Examples : look / look
at / look for - wait
/ wait for - come / come
► The particle is not really part of the verb, but an essential
link between the verb and its stated or implied object.
► These verbs are usually inseparable,
meaning that the verb and particle generally stand together.
adverbs or adverb phrases can
come between the verb and the particle in transitive statements,
particularly when the object is a noun.
If in doubt, do
not place the
adverb between the verb and the particle.
climbers went up
the mountain very
climbers went very
slowly up (=ascended)
went up it very
their exam very well.
through it very well
depending on your support, totally.
on you totally.
the notice board.
students were looking at the notice board intently.
at it , or
They were looking at it intently.
has a good number of verbs that appear
to be formed on the structure verb+particle+particle.
In most cases, these are prepositional verbs in which the root verb is
actually a phrasal verb.
Like simple prepositional verbs, phrasal prepositional verbs are transitive.
So in reality, the structure of these verbs is actually phrasal-verb
Once this is understood, usage should not be hard to follow. They
behave in the same way as ordinary prepositional verbs.
forward to the event.
forward to it.
forward to by everyone.
prisoners broke out of
broken out of.
airline did away with
away with them
done away with.
builders got on with
got on with
work was got
on with by the builders.
: © Andrew
Rossiter, Linguapress.com 2009 - 2012