A phrasal verb is formed when a verb combines with a preposition (at, on, over) or an adverb or both. This preposition or adverb is called a particle.  Some examples of particle are at, in, away, back, down, off, on, over, up. Such a combination creates a new verb that has its own special meaning. 

Most phrasal verbs are two-word phrases. There are phrasal verbs that consist of three words.

Examples:

  • He lived off his parents until he got married.
    (Phrasal verb is lived off; lived is a verb; off is a preposition)
  • Her dog was knocked down by a bus.
    (Phrasal verb is knocked down; knock is a verb; down is an adverb)
  • She can't put up with her boyfriend for long. 
    (Phrasal verb is put up with; with is a preposition; up is an adverb)

 

Phrasal verbs are described as idiomatic, that is their meanings cannot be arrived at by looking at the individual words that make up the phrasal verb.

 

Examples:

  • I look forward to get away this summer.
    (The phrasal verb get away means escape or go somewhere for a holiday. It consists of the verb get and the adverb away is a particle.)
  • I'll speak up, so those of you at the back can hear me. 
    (The phrasal verb speak up means speak louder. It consists of the verb speak and the adverb up is a particle.)

 

Some phrasal verbs retain the meaning of the original verb while some others have meaning completely different to the original verb.

 

Examples:

  • I asked them to come in.
    (The phrasal verb come in means enter which is easily understood as the meaning of  the word come is very familiar.)
  • The deal fell through at the last minute. 
    (The phrasal verb fell through means not completed successfully which is different in meaning to the verb fell.)

 

Phrasal verbs can be separable or non-separable
The words that make up a phrasal verb can be separable or non-separable. When it is separable, a noun or a pronoun object comes between the verb and the particle. If a phrasal verb is non-separable, a noun or pronoun object always comes after the particle and verb that make up the phrasal verb. More details can be found in the individual sections: