Non-Separable Transitive Phrasal Verbs

Introduction to Non-Separable Transitive Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are common aspects of English language usage that combine a verb and a preposition, a verb and an adverb, or both. They function as a single verb despite being formed by two or more words. Today's guide will focus on a particular type of phrasal verbs known as non-separable transitive phrasal verbs. We will explore what these are, their features, and how they are correctly used in sentences.

Understanding Non-separable Transitive Phrasal Verbs

A non-separable transitive phrasal verb is a type of phrasal verb that requires an object to complete its meaning and whose words cannot be separated by that object. The verb and the particle (preposition or adverb) must stay together, and the object (if it exists) always follows the entire phrasal verb.

For example, in the sentence "She looks after her younger brother," "looks after" is a non-separable transitive phrasal verb. The verb 'look' and the preposition 'after' cannot be separated and the object 'younger brother' follows it.

Features of Non-separable Transitive Phrasal Verbs

Non-separable transitive phrasal verbs have two distinctive features:

  • The particles (prepositions or adverbs) cannot be separated from the verbs they are helping to form. For instance, you cannot say "She looks her younger brother after."
  • They require an object to complete their meaning. If you just say, "She looks after," it is incomplete and does not make sense without knowing who or what is being looked after.
  • Identifying Non-separable Transitive Phrasal Verbs

    Identifying non-separable transitive phrasal verbs can be a challenging task due to the subtle nature of phrasal verbs. However, a strong understanding of the sentence's context can be helpful. If the phrasal verb being used requires an object to make complete sense and its words cannot be separated, then it is likely a non-separable transitive phrasal verb.

    Common Non-separable Transitive Phrasal Verbs

    There are numerous commonly used non-separable transitive phrasal verbs. Some include:

  • Run into: to meet someone unexpectedly (e.g., "I ran into an old friend at the store today.")
  • Look after: to take care of (e.g., "Can you look after the kids while I run some errands?")
  • Put off: to postpone (e.g., "I had to put off our meeting until next week.")
  • Look forward to: to anticipate with pleasure (e.g., "I look forward to seeing you at the party.")
  • Come across: to find or discover, usually by chance (e.g., "I came across this old photo while cleaning my room.")
  • Usage Rules for Non-separable Transitive Phrasal Verbs

    Two primary rules govern the usage of non-separable transitive phrasal verbs:

    Rule 1: Non-Separation of Verb and Particle

    The verb and the particle (preposition or adverb) in a non-separable transitive phrasal verb cannot be divided by the object. For example, it would be incorrect to say "I look the dog after." The correct usage is "I look after the dog."

    Rule 2: Inclusion of the Object

    Non-separable transitive phrasal verbs require an object for the overall sentence to make sense. For instance, saying "She comes across" is incomplete. The correct sentence would be "She comes across as a friendly person."


    Non-separable phrasal verbs are widely used in English, whether in casual conversations, academic writings, or professional discussions. Understanding and correctly applying them will significantly enhance your language skills and allow you to convey your thoughts more precisely. Keeping these rules in mind when employing non-separable transitive phrasal verbs will contribute to your versatile command of the English language.

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