What is a phrasal verb?
Phrasal verbs are two-part or three-part or verbs with idiomatic meanings, often used in informal English. As the definition indicates, an entire phrasal verb carries the same weight as a single verb. You should not try to translate the words individually, but accept the group of words as having one united meaning.
The phrasal verb “call off” means the same as “cancel“: We had to call off the meeting.
The phrasal verb “find out” means the same as “discover“: You won’t believe what I found out about my family history.
Phrasal verbs are different from regular verb and preposition or verb and adverb combinations. With a regular verb and preposition combination, for example, the verb retains its standard meaning and the preposition merely indicates its relationship with the object. With a phrasal verb on the other hand, when the verb combines with a particle (or particles), its meaning often transforms completely, to something different from what the verb is generally understood as.
The traditional definition of the verb “run” is “to travel at a speed that is faster than running.” However, the phrase “run into,” means “meet by chance.”
In a sentence: I ran into my high school Geography teacher at the mall this afternoon.
What are particles?
Particles are words that have grammatical functions but little or no meaning on their own. They have to be associated with other words or phrases in order to have meaning. A phrasal verb conventionally consists of a verb and one or two particles. You may identify these as prepositions and adverbs in the traditional sense, but they are particles in phrasal verbs because they would not mean much on their own.
Why is it important to know phrasal verbs?
Phrasal verbs appear so often in daily speech that being unfamiliar with them can cause you to interpret many messages incorrectly, therefore leaving you confused and questioning your understanding of vocabulary or grammatical rules. Although they are informal expressions, you are still very likely to encounter these phrases in formal settings. Understanding the most common ones will give you a significant advantage.
There is an enormous number of phrasal verbs in the English language. The best way to begin is by learning the most frequently used. Once you are comfortable enough with using them correctly in context, you may continue expanding your range.
Transitive vs intransitive phrasal verbs
Transitive phrasal verbs have a direct object, while intransitive phrasal verbs do not have a direct object. Intransitive phrasal verbs cannot be separable, while transitive phrasal verbs can.
An object is a word or part of the sentence that is affected by the action of the verb.
Intransitive phrasal verbs
Our plan fell through. – Our plan failed.
What do you want to be when you grow up? – What do you want to be when you become an adult?
Transitive phrasal verbs
You need to hand in your assignment on time. – You need to submit your assignment on time. (“assignment” is the direct object)
He turned down the offer. – He refused the offer. (“offer” is the direct object)
Separable vs inseparable phrasal verbs
Intransitive phrasal verbs cannot be separable, but some transitive phrasal verbs can be. This is to say that the object can be placed between the verb and its particles. If the object is a pronoun, it has to be placed in the middle of the phrasal verb, not after it.
The firemen extinguished the fire
The firemen put out the fire. (correct)
The firemen put the fire out. (correct)
The firemen put it out. (correct)
The firemen put out it. (incorrect)