The sooner you make friends with phrasal verbs, the easier your life as an English learner becomes. The difficulty that they are associated with and the sheer number of them should not stand in the way if you have the right approach. As with everything in life, small steps will take you far. There is a lot to be said about systems to learn them effectively and progressively and the keyword here is context (see footnote), but what this blog post will hopefully do is give you an understanding of how to use them well in terms of grammar and that is a solid first step.
To start with, let’s break them into three groups.
- TRANSITIVE INSEPARABLE
- TRANSITIVE SEPARABLE
GROUP 1: INTRANSITIVE PHRASAL VERBS
Intransitive phrasal verbs do not need a direct object.
EXAMPLE: EAT OUT
Back in pre-pandemic days, they used to eat out once a week.
Eat out does not need an object.
Make a sentence containing this phrasal verb: Do you enjoy eating out?
GROUP 2: INTRANSITIVE PHRASAL VERBS
These phrasal verbs need a direct object but it must be placed after the particle, not before it.
EXAMPLE: LOOK AFTER
PHRASAL VERB + NOUN
Grandparents often look after their grandchildren when parents are at work.
PHRASAL VERB + PRONOUN
They look after them.
The object is after the particle when it is a noun and also when it is a pronoun.
GROUP 3: TRANSITIVE PHRASAL VERBS
These phrasal verbs need a direct object and it can be placed after the particle or before it when it is a noun or only before it when it is a pronoun.
EXAMPLE: LOOK UP (AS IN LOOK UP INFORMATION)
PHRASAL VERB + NOUN
–Look up the word in the dictionary.
The object can be after the particle when it is a noun.
VERB + NOUN + PARTICLE
–Look the word up in the dictionary.
The object can be before the particle when it is a noun.
VERB + PRONOUN+ PARTICLE
–Look it up in the dictionary.
The object can be before the particle when it is a pronoun.
AVOID THIS MISTAKE:
Look up it.
Remember: when the direct object is a pronoun, place it only before the particle not afterwards.
How do I know which type of phrasal verb it is?
You can use a dictionary to check it out.
There are variations in the way dictionaries present this grammar.
This is one of them:
–VP – INTRANSITIVE
–VPn – TRANSITIVE SEPARABLE
–VnP – TRANSITIVE NON-SEPARABLE
V stands for Verb // P stands for Particle // n stands for noun
Having said that, very often, all you need to do is follow your instinct because you just know what sounds right.
–I have to go over my notes before the exam. Sounds right
–I have to
go my notes over before the exam. Sounds wrong
What about phrasal verbs with two particles?
In this case, place the object after the second particle. Do not separate them.
LOOK FORWARD TO
They are looking forward to the Christmas holidays.
- THERE IS A SUMMARY PDF PRESENTATION OF THESE CONTENTS HERE.
- FOR PHRASAL VERBS IN CONTEXT, YOU CAN VISIT: