PHRASAL VERBS: Introduction -Learn with easy examples

What is a phrasal Verb?

A phrasal verb is formed when an adverb particle is added to the main verb to make a new verb. This new verb has a new meaning most of the time. You will find a Full list of PHRASAL VERBS with meaning and examples and Exercise II in Step 80 but now you should better comprehend the Phrasal Verb.

Look at the following sentences.

  1. Look at this picture.
  2. Egg does not agree with me.
  3. The birds flew away.
  4. Ramesh stood up.

In the above sentences, the verbs have two parts each – the main verb (look, agree, flew, stood) and another small word (at, with, away, up). In sentences 1 and 2 the small words at, with) are prepositions and in sentences 3 and 4 they are adverb particles. They are known as two-word verbs. Sentences 3 and 4 are called Phrasal Verbs.

Phrasal Prepositional Verbs

Some phrasal verbs may have three parts. They are made of a verb, an adverb particle and a preposition. These phrasal verbs are also called Phrasal Prepositional Verbs. For example:

  • I have run out of money.
  • We are looking forward to the summer holidays.

Phrasal verbs: Their Meaning:

Some phrasal verbs are very easy to understand. For example:

  • We went round the city.
  • Prices have come down.

In the above sentences, we can easily understand the meanings of the phrasal verbs (went round, come down) if we have understood the meanings of the words they are made of.

Now, look at the following phrasal verbs.

  • Our request was turned down.
  • Lisa and Misa have fallen out.

We cannot guess the meanings of the phrasal verbs in the above sentences even if we know the meanings of the words which make them. The meaning of “turn down” has nothing to do with the meaning of “turn” or ‘down‘. Similar is the case with fallen out.  The phrasal verbs here give us quite different meanings. Turn down means to rejected and fallen out means quarreled.  Most phrasal verbs of this type can be replaced by a single-word verb.

Phrasal Verbs as Transitive and Intransitive and their use:

Like the ordinary verbs, phrasal verbs can be transitive or intransitive i.e., they can have either objects or no objects at all. Look at the following sentences:

  • My car has broken down.
  • The bomb blew up unexpectedly.
  • I am getting on well.
  • Only a few actors turned up at the rehearsal.
  • The plane took off late.

All the above phrasal verbs do not have any object. They are intransitive phrasal verbs.

  • We have set up a school.
  • I cannot make out your words.
  • Would you please turn on the light?
  • The government has brought in a law on dowry.
  • Please throw away the dirty things.

In the above sentences, the phrasal verbs have objects. They are transitive phrasal verbs.

Some phrasal verbs can be used both transitively and intransitively with or without a change in their meanings. For example.

  • Run Down

Intransitive:     The battery has run down (=become weak)

Transitive:       (i) You will run down the battery if you use it long. (no change in meaning)

(ii) He is always running down his neighbours. (=criticize: change in meaning)

  • Come off.

Intransitive:     Her wedding came off in a grand way (=took place, happened)

Transitive:       (i) The handle came off the door (=got separated: change in meaning)

                        (ii) He is always running down his neighbours. (=criticize: change in                       meaning)

  • Look (a)round

Intransitive:     I looked round when I heard a sound. (=turn head to see)

Transitive:       We looked round the temple> (no change in meaning)

  • Move about. 

Intransitive:     I saw somebody moving about in the dark. (to walk from place to                           place)

Transitive:       He was moving about the place. (No change in meaning)

Structure of Phrasal Verbs.

(I) Intransitive Phrasal Verbs

Intransitive phrasal verbs always have the pattern of verb+ adverb

  • This machine breaks down frequently. (=stops working)
  • Business is looking up. (=improving)
  • We set out/off in the morning (=started journey)
  • The accident came about an hour ago (=happened)

(ii) Transitive Phrasal Verbs.

A transitive phrasal verb has an object. The object may take different positions in the sentence. Accordingly, the transitive phrasal verbs take the following patterns.

(i) Verb + particle + object

The verb and the particle are very strongly attached and cannot be separated by the object even though it is a pronoun. The particle is usually a preposition.

  • They have dealt with the problem intelligently.

(Not, they have dealt the problem with….)

  • My children are looking after me.

(Not, my children are looking me after)

(ii) Verb + object + particle

A small number of phrasal verbs take the objects between the verb and the particle.

The object cannot be used after the particle.

  • He always orders others about. (=ask others to do things)
  • It is ill manners to answer your parents back. (=to reply rudely).

(iii) Verb + particle + object (VPO) or , Verb + object + Particle (VOP)

  • Please put away the dishes. (VPO)

 or, Please put the dishes away. (VOP)

  • We turned on the light. (VPO)

or, We turned the light on. (VOP)

Two important things are to be kept in mind in making the choice of VPO or VOP.

(a) if the object is a long one, it usually goes after the particle (VPO)

  • The headmaster turned down all the requests made to him.

(Not, the headmaster turned all the requests made to him down.)

  • You must give up all your bad habits.

Not, you must give all your bad habits up.

b) When the object is a pronoun it goes before the particle.

  • I woke up all my neighbours.

Or I woke them up. (Them is the pronoun used for all my neighbours).

 (I woke up them is not possible)

  • I threw away my old toy.

 Or,  I threw it away (it  is the pronoun used for the toy)

(Threw away it is not possible).

(iv) Verb +Adverb particle + preposition + object: all the phrasal prepositional verbs usually follow this pattern.

  • We are looking forward to your next visit. (=eagerly waiting for).
  • How can you put up with such insults? (=tolerate)


In some sentences below the particles can be separated from the verb and put after the noun phrase (the object). Find out such sentences and rewrite them with the particles after objects. Write NS (not separable) against the sentences where particles cannot be separated.

Example: 1. I depend on you. (NS)

                 2. He turned off the light.

                       =he turned the light off.

  1. I am looking for a good dress.
  2. The enemy blew up the bridge.
  3. The police are looking into the matter.
  4. Take off your shoes before coming in.
  5. I called on an old friend yesterday.
  6. Can I count on your help during difficulties?
  7. The government put down the revolt firmly.
  8. The child hit on a plan to escape punishment.
  9. The child hit on a plan to escape punishment.
  10. We called off the strike after an agreement.


Replace the noun phrase in italics with an appropriate pronoun and use it in the right place.

Example: We saw off our friends at the airport.

Ans:     We saw them off.

  1. Can you pick out the correct answers?
  2. We have pointed out many mistakes.
  3. It is time to wind up the speech.
  4. The soldiers pulled down the fort.
  5. Can you carry on this work a little longer?
  6. They threw away all the useless things.
  7. W closed down our business as it was not profitable.
  8. You must lay by a part of your income for future use.
  9. Please look up the word in a dictionary.


Complete the sentences using the phrasal verbs and the objects in the appropriate places.

Examples: (i) I will _______ after lunch. (call back / you)

Ans: I will call you back after lunch.

(ii) It’s a trick Only a fool will _______. (fall for / it)

Ans; Only a fool will fall for it.

  1. I _______ on my way to school. (came across / a strange animal)
  2. It is better to _______ (throw away / broken chairs)
  3. It was a mistake. My friend _______. (point out / it)
  4. Who is _______ nowadays? (looking after / this building).
  5. His son died. He has never _______. (get over / his sorrows)
  6. His son died. He has never _______. (get over / his sorrows).
  7. She offered to help me, but I _______ (turn down / it)
  8. I met Ramesh today. He was _______ (asking after / you)
  9. This school is not running well. We will _______ (close down /it)
  10. Your brother is in trouble. You must _______ during his distress. (stand by  / him)

Here is a Full list of PHRASAL VERBS with meaning and examples and Exercise-II | Step 80

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