Let’s learn phrasal verbs!

A phrasal verb

is a phrase that consists of a verb with a particle (and sometimes a preposition), the meaning of which is different from the meaning of its separate parts (e.g. give up, turn out, look for, look forward to etc.).

Particles can be prepositional (for, in, on etc.) and adverbial (away, back, out etc.) (Mark Foley ‘Advanced Learners’ Grammar’).

Phrasal verbs can be

1) Intransitive

they take no object, e.g. catch on (‘become popular’), get by (‘manage’), hurry up, get up, run away, watch out (‘be careful’) e.g.


I had just 20 pounds to get by.

Hurry up! We’re going to miss the train!

Watch out! There’s a car!

2) Transitive

they take an object, e.g. switch on/off, turn on/off, look for

a) Separable

The verb and the particle can be separated. The object may go before or after the particle:

Please, take off your shoes/ Please, take your shoes off

Turn the music down/ Turn down the music.

Note: if the object is a pronoun, it must go between the verb and particle:

Please, take off your shoes. – Take them off. (take off them!)

Turn the music down. – Turn it down. (turn down it)

b) Inseparable


The verb and the particle can’t be separated. The object may go only after the particle:

I’m sure you can cope with this task easily.

Are you looking for the umbrella? I saw it over there.3

Note: among inseparable there are

Phrasal verbs with a particle + a preposition (phrasal- prepositional verbs)

I look forward to hearing from you.

All the students look up to this professor.

Note: Phrasal verbs often have several meanings.

The same phrasal verb can be transitive and intransitive, e.g. take off:

I took off my coat (transitive).

The plane took off (intransitive).

Common phrasal verbs