Phrasal Verbs: Overview

Phrasal verbs make our speech more vivid and authentic. A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb with an adverb or a preposition. Typically, its meaning is not obvious from the meanings of the individual words themselves. For example:

  • I ran into my teacher at the movies last night. (you didn’t physically run into your teacher, but you met your teacher unexpectedly)

Look at the verb ‘take’ and see how many phrasal verbs it can form with different prepositions:

Phrasal verbs without objects

We don’t use ‘wake up’ and ‘get up’ with an object.

These are some other examples of phrasal verbs without objects:

  • Come in! The door is open!
  • Hold on. I need five more minutes.
  • Look out! There’s a car coming!
  • Go away! I don’t want to talk to you!
  • The train was full so I had to stand up.
  • Please sit down and relax.

Phrasal verbs with objects

a) phrasal verbs taking an object

Some phrasal verbs always take an object:

  • I put on my jacket.
  • NOT: I put on.

‘My jacket’ is the object. We can also put the object in the middle:

  • I put my jacket on.

If the object is a pronoun, it always comes in the middle:

  • I put it on.
  • NOT: I put on it.

Other common phrasal verbs which follow this pattern:

  • I took off my jacket.
  • He switched on / turned on the computer.
  • He switched off / turned off the computer.

b) inseparable phrasal verbs with an object

Other phrasal verbs always take an object but we can’t put it in the middle:

  • I looked after his plants.
  • NOT: I looked after.
  • NOT: I looked his plants after.
  • I looked after them.
  • NOT: I looked them after.

Another common phrasal verb which follows this pattern:

  • She takes after her father.
  • The police are looking into the crime.

c) phrasal verbs with or without an object

Some phrasal verbs can be used with or without an object:

  • The taxi arrived and I got in. (no object)
  • I got in / into the taxi.
  • The bus arrived and I got on.
  • I got on / onto the bus.
  • I walked to the shop and I went in.
  • I went in / into the shop.

In this video, you can find the explanation of a phrasal verb and and the most commonly used phrasal verbs:

See also:

Phrasal Verbs: Separable and Inseparable

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