Phrasal verbs are phrases that indicate actions. They are generally used in spoken English and informal texts. Examples of such verbs include: turn down, come across and run into.
Phrasal verbs consist of a verb and a preposition or an adverb:
Verb Preposition/adverb get up go through write down take after
Sometimes phrasal verbs consist of three elements:
Verb Preposition / adverb 1 Preposition / adverb 2 look forward to put up with sit in for
When added to the verb the preposition or adverb may change completely the meaning of the verb. Here are some examples:
Phrasal verb Meaning Example look for search/seek He is looking for his keys look up to have a great deal of respect for a person His father is his model. He is the person he looks up to. look forward to await eagerly/anticipate with pleasure She is looking forward to visiting Paris. look up to try to find a piece of information by looking in a book or on a computer: She didn't understand the word. So she looked it up in her dictionary
Sometimes, it is difficult to understand the meaning of phrasal verbs. Before looking them up in a dictionary, it would be helpful to use the context to understand them.
Some phrasal verbs have a literal meaning. They can be easily understood.
- She opened the door and looked outside.
- She was walking across the street when she heard the sound of an explosion.
Phrasal verbs can also have a figurative or idiomatic meaning which makes them difficult to understand.
- Can you put me up for tonight?
The phrasal verb 'put up' here does not mean to build (as in putting a fence up). It has, however, an idiomatic/figurative meaning. It means to let someone stay in your house.
1. Sometimes, the preposition/adverb is placed either after the verb or after the object.
- Mary made up a really entertaining story.
- Mary made the story up.
2. If the object is a pronoun, however, the preposition/adverb has to be placed after the pronoun (object).
- She made it up.
- Put it down.
- Take it off.
3. Some phrasal verbs are always inseparable.
- I came across some old photos in a drawer.
I came some old photos across in a drawer.