Intransitive Phrasal Verbs: Examples & Overview

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  • 0:01 Intransitive Phrasal Verbs
  • 2:01 Intransitive vs. Transitive
  • 3:36 Examples
  • 4:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Gentry
Intransitive phrasal verbs occur quite often in sentence structure situations. Learn how to identify them through examples and a comprehensive lesson.

Intransitive Phrasal Verbs Defined

Intransitive phrasal verbs occur often in the English language even though we may not readily notice them. 'I will get ahead' is an example of one we encounter frequently. 'Get ahead' is actually the complete verb. Because it contains two words, it differs from our understanding of a traditional verb, such as the verbs in 'The tree grows quickly' or 'Jonathan spiked the ball over the net.' Let's look more closely at what constitutes a phrasal verb and then learn about the difference between transitive phrasal verbs and intransitive phrasal verbs.

Phrasal verbs are verbs followed by an adverb or a preposition (i.e. 'come over,' 'back down,' 'cheer up'). It's the combination of the traditional verb and the adverb or preposition that creates a different meaning than if we were to examine them separately. 'She cheers for the team every Saturday' and 'His mother cheers up her co-workers every day' show us the different nuances between the verb of 'cheers' and the phrasal verb of 'cheers up'.

Here are only a few examples of how frequently we see phrasal verbs in the English language:

  • He 'hangs up' the phone.
  • My friend will 'drop in' to see me this morning.
  • The two friends had a great conversation when they finally 'made up.'
  • He barely 'gets by' on his salary.

As you can observe from the chart (see video), there are occasions when a phrasal verb contains more than two words. While not exhaustive, the following list includes other common phrasal verbs:

get around
give up
give over
blow over
calm down
catch up
go off
pull in
turn around
sit down
turn out
watch out
show off

We categorize phrasal verbs further by noting whether they are intransitive or transitive, which means that we examine the sentence structure to see if it includes a direct object. Let's look at this further.

Intransitive vs. Transitive

The key to understanding the difference between intransitive and transitive phrasal verbs is the ability to pick out the direct object in the sentence. A direct object is the noun that receives the action in a transitive sentence. For instance, 'Kelly ate the best-tasting burrito of her life' features a direct object phrase of 'best-tasting burrito.' 'Kelly' is the subject; 'ate' is the verb. We might naturally ask, 'What did she eat?' The answer would be 'best-tasting burrito.'

An intransitive phrasal verb would mean then that we have a phrasal verb with no direct object. Here are some examples:

  • He 'stepped aside' for the bicyclist.
  • The lost book will 'turn up.'

For contrast, let's look at some transitive phrasal verbs and note their respective direct objects:

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