Phrasal Verbs Definition

Phrasal verbs (also called multi-word verbs) are idiomatic expressions, combining verbs and prepositions to make new verbs whose meaning is often not obvious from the dictionary definitions of the individual words. They are widely used in both written and spoken English, and new ones are formed all the time as they are a flexible way of creating new terms.

A phrasal verb consists of a verb and a preposition or adverb that modifies or changes the meaning; 'give up' is a phrasal verb that means 'stop doing' something, which is very different from 'give'. The word or words that modify a verb in this manner can also go under the name particle.

Phrasal verbs can be divided into groups:

Intransitive verbs

These don't take an object

  • Example: They had an argument, but they've made up now.

Inseparable verbs

The object must come after the particle.

  • Example: They are looking after their grandchildren.

Separable verbs

With some separable verbs, the object must come between the verb and the particle:
The quality of their work sets them apart from their rivals.

In our phrasal verb list, we classify these as Separable [obligatory]

With some separable verbs, the object can before or after the particle, though when a pronoun is used it comes before the particle:

  • Example: Turn the TV off.
  • Example: Turn off the TV.
  • Example: Turn it off.

In our phrasal verb list, we classify these as Separable [optional]

See Also:

Auxiliary Verb; Ditransitive Verb; Dynamic Verb; Finite Verb; Inchoative Verb; Intransitive Verb; Irregular Verb; Modal Verb; Performative Verb; Regular Verb; Stative Verb; Transitive Verb; Verb Group; Verb Phrase 


Verbs and Tenses

Related to 'Phrasal Verbs'