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Phrasal Verbs: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 Phrasal Verbs
  • 0:24 Use as Idioms
  • 1:14 Separated Phrasal Verbs
  • 2:00 Transitive vs. Intransitive
  • 2:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Debbie Notari
Phrasal verbs are verbs that contain more than one word. In this lesson, we'll learn about the roles of phrasal verbs and when they can and cannot be separated in a sentence.

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs consist of a main verb plus either an adverb or a preposition. The term particle is another word for the adverb or preposition. Phrasal verbs provide the action in a sentence. However, by combining a verb with a particle, the combination of the words makes the verb phrase take on a meaning of its own.

Use as Idioms

Phrasal verbs are unique because they are not the same as other commonly used verb phrases, such as verbs paired with helping verbs. Remember that phrasal verbs begin with a verb and end in an adverb or a preposition. When they do, the original meaning of the verb changes. This is one way that idioms, or words with a figurative rather than a literal meaning, are formed.

Take the phrasal verb 'turn in.' We know that 'turn' means to go another direction, and that 'in' means inside something. But when the words 'turn in' are put together as a phrasal verb, their meaning changes. Suddenly, we have an assignment that is taken out of a student's backpack and 'turned in,' or given to the teacher. Another example would be the phrasal verb 'drop off.' If we say that Stacy 'dropped off' instead of studying, we mean that she fell asleep instead of studying.

Separated Phrasal Verbs

Some phrasal verbs can be separated. This means that although the main verb is in one part of the sentence, other words can be used between the phrasal verb and the adverb or preposition that completes it.

Here is an example of a separated phrasal verb:

  • Camille brought it up the stairs.

Here, the word 'it' comes between the words in the phrasal verb 'brought up.'

Please note that we can't always separate the parts of phrasal verbs. This calls for common sense judgment. Take the following sentence, for instance:

  • Janet found it out that Peter was her Secret Santa.

In this case, separating 'found' from 'out' is a bad idea. It just doesn't sound right, does it? It would be correct to say:

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