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Phrasal Verbs

A phrasal verb ['freɪzl və:rb] (or also compound verb ['kɔmpʌund və:rb]) is a stable combination of a verb with a preposition or a particle, or both, such a combination is idiomatic:

  • Come in. – Enter (the room, building, or other place).

A phrasal verb formed with a preposition is called a prepositional phrasal verb, and a phrasal verb with a particle – a particle phrasal verb or an adverbial phrasal verb:

  • I am after another job. (combination of a verb with a preposition)
  • He is out now. (particle phrasal verb formed using the adverb "out")
  • He is getting on. (particle phrasal verb formed using the preposition "on")

The function of a particle in phrasal verbs can be performed by prepositions or adverbs. The difference between a particle phrasal verb formed with the help of a preposition from a prepositional phrasal verb is determined by whether the preposition is part of the sentence's object (i.e., whether it forms the prepositional object) or not:

  1. I have to get on the bus number 7. (in this sentence "on" is part of the object "on the bus")
  2. You have to get on your coat. (herein "on" is a particle and does not perform the function of a preposition, in other words, the "on" does not link the verb "get" with "your coat")

In the second case, there are two options for the location of the particle, before and after the object:

  • You have to get on your coat. = You have to get your coat on.

If a personal pronoun is used as the object, then the phrasal verb's particle is always placed after the pronoun:

  • Here is your coat. You have to get it on.

Compare with the prepositional phrasal verb:

  • It's the bus number 7. I have to get on it.

In connection with the above, phrasal verbs are sometimes divided into separable [ˈsepərəbl] and inseparable [ɪnˈsepərəbl].

Phrasal verbs in English are more often used in everyday communication and, as a rule, they are formed with native English words, and usually are not formed with words borrowed from other languages, i.e. verbs belonging rather to formal speech:

  • "get together" vs. "congregate"
  • "put off" vs. "postpone"
  • "get out" vs. "exit"

Sometimes some lexical meanings of a phrasal verb can be understood from the meanings of the attached preposition or adverb, for example: "give away", "give back", "look for", "get up".

After studying a certain number of phrasal verbs, the understanding comes of what this or that preposition, or adverb in a given phrasal verb can mean.

See also


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