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  1. Leslie1
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    #1

    Rule/Heuristic for Distinguishing Separable and Non-Separable Phrasal Verbs?

    I often hear that there is no rule for distinguishing separable and non-separable phrasal verbs.

    a. The airplane took off at noon. (inseparable)

    b. The airplane flew too low and took the antenna off (separable) the roof as it took off.

    a. intransitive

    b. transitive

    Therefore (I wish) intransitive phrasal verbs were inseparable; transitive phrasal verbs were separable.

    Would appreciate any insight.
    Thanks.

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    #2

    Re: Rule/Heuristic for Distinguishing Separable and Non-Separable Phrasal Verbs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Leslie1 View Post
    there is no rule for distinguishing separable and non-separable phrasal verbs.
    You'll have to accept it, I'm afraid.
    Therefore (I wish) intransitive phrasal verbs were inseparable; transitive phrasal verbs were separable.
    Most intransitive phrasal verbs are inseparable, but transitive phrasal verbs may be separable (He looked up the word/He looked the word up​) or inseparable (She got over her illness/She got her illness over).

  3. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Rule/Heuristic for Distinguishing Separable and Non-Separable Phrasal Verbs?

    Intransitive phrasal verbs are by definition inseparable. If they have no object, there is nothing to separate.

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    #4

    Re: Rule/Heuristic for Distinguishing Separable and Non-Separable Phrasal Verbs?

    Not so. Adverbs can separate a verb and and adverb: The man walked quickly past.

    In theory, the verb part of a phrasal verb could be separated from its adverb/particle by an adverb: The plane took slowly off, but this is not natural.

  5. Leslie1
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    #5

    Re: Rule/Heuristic for Distinguishing Separable and Non-Separable Phrasal Verbs?

    Yes, as you write, they seem to be "not natural" (or conventional, as I would prefer to say).

    You write: Adverbs can separate a verb and and adverb:
    The man walked quickly past. If it's an unconventional way of speaking, to make it conventional it would be: The man walked quickly past us. Then there is an object. This raises the question for whether this is a phrasal verb. I propose "walk past" is not a phrasal verb. It is simply a verb and a preposition. Not all verbs and prepositions are phrasal verbs.

    In theory, the verb part of a phrasal verb could be separated from its adverb/particle by an adverb: The plane took slowly off, but this is not natural.
    Agreed, not natural, so does it exist for speakers? If not, it doesn't make sense as a counter-example?

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    #6

    Re: Rule/Heuristic for Distinguishing Separable and Non-Separable Phrasal Verbs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Leslie1 View Post
    Y The man walked quickly past. If it's an unconventional way of speaking,
    It's natural enough in BrE.

  7. Leslie1
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    #7

    Re: Rule/Heuristic for Distinguishing Separable and Non-Separable Phrasal Verbs?

    A search of https://www.usingenglish.com/referen...l-verbs/w.html shows that "walk past" is not a phrasal verb.

    Because "walk past" is not a phrasal verb, the rule still holds until a counter-example can be given:

    Phrasal Verb Rule 1: All intransitive phrasal verbs are inseparable

    (based on the meaning of intransitive: "If they have no object, there is nothing to separate").

  8. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #8

    Re: Rule/Heuristic for Distinguishing Separable and Non-Separable Phrasal Verbs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Leslie1 View Post
    A search of https://www.usingenglish.com/referen...l-verbs/w.html shows that "walk past" is not a phrasal verb.

    Because "walk past" is not a phrasal verb, the rule still holds until a counter-example can be given:

    Phrasal Verb Rule 1: All intransitive phrasal verbs are inseparable

    (based on the meaning of intransitive: "If they have no object, there is nothing to separate").
    Firstly, the list is not definitive- there is no such thing. It is a work in progress and the fact that a verb is not there does not mean that the verb does not exist. Walk past is not a phrasal verb to me because there is no idiomatic meaning to it. For the purposes of the list, we generally take a generous definition of the term and would allow verbs that greater purists might not allow, but I would not include it simply on the grounds that walk + past do not combine to a meaning that the dictionary definitions of the individual words do not cover.

  9. Leslie1
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    #9

    Re: Rule/Heuristic for Distinguishing Separable and Non-Separable Phrasal Verbs?

    That seems eminently logical --
    so do we have an analytically a priori rule:

    All intransitive phrasal verbs are inseparable (based on the meaning of intransitive: "If they have no object, there is nothing to separate").

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