What are Phrasal Verbs?

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Question: What are Phrasal Verbs?
Answer: There are four types of phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs can be separable or inseparable and they can take an object or not. Here is a guide to the basics of phrasal verbs.Phrasal Verbs which Take ObjectsPhrasal verbs which take objects can be separable or inseparable:

Separable phrasal verbs can remain together when using an object that is a noun or noun phrase.

- I picked Tom up. OR I picked up Tom.

- They put their friends up. OR They put up their friends.

Separable phrasal verbs MUST be separated when a pronoun is used:

- We picked him up at the station. NOT We picked up him at the station.

- They put them up. NOT They put up them.

Inseparable phrasal verbs always remain together. It makes no difference if a noun or pronoun is used.

- We set off for the beach. / We set off for it.

- They are looking after the children. / They are looking after them.

Phrasal Verbs which Don’t Take Objects

Some phrasal verbs do not take objects. These phrasal verbs are ALWAYS inseparable.

- They thieves got away.

- The bus broke down on the way to work.

- She got up early.


If you are not sure whether a phrasal verb is separable or inseparable, ALWAYS use a noun or nouns phrase and DO NOT separate. In this manner, you will always be correct!

Separable Phrasal Verbs: bring up, take off

- They brought up their children to respect others.

- She took off her jacket before she began the lesson.

Inseparable Phrasal Verbs: look for, set off

- She was looking for her books when he arrived.

- They set off for a wonderful holiday in Hawaii.

Three-word Phrasal Verbs

Some verbs are followed by two prepositions (or adverbs). These phrasal verbs are ALWAYS inseparable.

- I’m looking forward to meeting John. OR I’m looking forward to meeting him.

- They didn’t get on with their mother. OR They didn’t get on with her.