Phrasal Verbs

Introduction to Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are an important part of English grammar, especially when it comes to daily conversations and informal language. These verbs are usually a combination of a verb and one or two particles (either prepositions or adverbs), and they often carry a different meaning compared to the original verb. Notably, the meaning of a phrasal verb can not always be deduced from its individual words, making them sometimes confusing for learners.

A Basic Understanding of Phrasal Verbs

Before we delve deeper into the understanding of phrasal verbs, take a look at this example:

Example: "He gave up smoking."

In this sentence, "gave up" is a phrasal verb which means "to quit". As you can observe, the meaning of "give up" is entirely different from the verb "give". This highlights the exceptional nature of phrasal verbs in English grammar.

Types of Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs can be separated into two types: transitive and intransitive phrasal verbs.

Transitive Phrasal Verbs

Transitive phrasal verbs require an object to make the sentence complete. Without an object, the sentence would not make sense.

Example: "She turned off the light." (Here, 'the light' is the object)

Intransitive Phrasal Verbs

Intransitive phrasal verbs, on the other hand, do not need an object to complete the sentence. They make sense even without an object.

Example: "He woke up early." (Here, no object is required)

Separable and Inseparable Phrasal Verbs

Apart from transitive and intransitive, phrasal verbs can also be classified into separable and inseparable.

Separable Phrasal Verbs

Separable phrasal verbs allow the object to come in between the phrasal verb. In other words, the verb and its particle can be separated.

Example: "She turned the light off." (Here, the object 'the light' is separating 'turned' and 'off')

Inseparable Phrasal Verbs

In the case of inseparable phrasal verbs, the object can't be placed in between the verb and its particle. They must stay together.

Example: "He ran into his teacher at the mall." (Here, 'ran into' can't be separated)

Understanding the Context

Understanding the context is crucial when dealing with phrasal verbs because a phrasal verb can have more than one meaning based on the situation. The only way to understand the accurate meaning is to make sense of the context.

Example: The phrasal verb 'break down' can mean a vehicle not working, or someone getting emotional. "His car broke down on the way" vs. "She broke down after hearing the news."


Phrasal verbs are an inevitable part of English grammar. Understanding them can be a bit tricky but with continual practice and application, it becomes easier to grasp them. The key is to focus on the context and remember that a phrasal verb is often more than the sum of its parts.

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