What are Phrasal Verbs? | Grammar

So what are phrasal verbs anyway?

A phrasal verb is a phrase or expression that consists of a verb plus another word or two, like this:

[verb + adverb] e.g: look up

[verb + preposition] e.g: look after

[verb + adverb + preposition] e.g: look forward to

The whole phrase acts as a verb, and has a different meaning to the original verb. For example, look up, look after and look forward to do NOT mean the same as look.

Because we cannot always work out the meaning of a phrasal verb from its individual words, phrasal verbs are usually “idiomatic”. They are very common in spoken English, and less common in formal written English.

Some phrasal verbs can be split by their object. They are said to be “separable” because the object can go between the verb and the rest of the phrase. For example, in the following sentences the phrasal verb “turn on” is separable, so the object (“the radio”) can go after the phrasal verb OR in the middle of the phrasal verb:

  • Mary turned on the radio.
  • Mary turned the radio on.

Here are some more example sentences with phrasal verbs:

  • They had to put off their wedding for a year.
  • What time do you get up in the morning?
  • I was disappointed that they turned my invitation down.
  • Who is looking after your dog while you’re away?
  • She didn’t get on with her boss so she was glad when he left.
  • Luckily, we didn’t run out of petrol and we got home okay.
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