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phrasal verb


phrasal verb

Examples of phrasal verbs in English


A complex verb made up of a verb (usually one of action or movement) and a prepositional adverb--also known as an adverbial particle (of direction or location).

There are hundreds of phrasal verbs in English, many of them (such as tear off, run out [of], and pull through) with multiple meanings. (See Examples and Observations, below.)

According to Logan Pearsall Smith in Words and Idioms (1925), the term phrasal verb was introduced by Henry Bradley, senior editor of the Oxford English Dictionary.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "What you can't get out of, get into wholeheartedly."
    (Mignon McLaughlin, The Complete Neurotic's Notebook. Castle Books, 1981)

  • "Put out the light, and then put out the light."
    (William Shakespeare, Othello)

  • "I never truckled; I never took off the hat to Fashion and held it out for pennies. By God, I told them the truth."
    (Frank Norris, Responsibilities of the Novelist, 1902)

  • "Clots of excited children egged each other on, egged on their parents, egged on the blue-haired ladies and the teenage lovers and janitor who put down his mop to play."
    (K.C. Cole, Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009)

  • "a wind has blown the rain away and blown
    the sky away and all the leaves away,
    and the trees stand."
    (E.E. Cummings, "A Wind Has Blown the Rain Away and Blown")

  • The Semantic Coherence of Phrasal Verbs
    "Like compounds, phrasal verbs have semantic coherence, evidenced by the fact that they are sometimes replaceable by single Latinate verbs, as in the following:

    • break out -- erupt, escape
    • count out -- exclude
    • think up -- imagine
    • take off -- depart, remove
    • work out -- solve
    • put off -- delay
    • egg on -- incite
    • put out -- extinguish
    • put off -- postpone
    Furthermore, the meaning of the combination of verb and particle in the phrasal verb may be opaque, that is, not predictable from the meaning of the parts."
    (Laurel J. Brinton, The Structure of Modern English: A Linguistic Introduction. John Benjamins, 2000)

  • Phrasal Verbs With Up
    "[P]hrasal verbs with up have filled a wide variety of roles in both British and American English. Up gets used for literal upward movement (lift up, stand up) or more figuratively to indicate greater intensity (stir up, fire up) or completion of an act (drink up, burn up). It’s particularly handy for blunt imperatives calling for resolute action: think of wake up!, grow up!, hurry up! and put up or shut up!"
    (Ben Zimmer, "On Language: The Meaning of ‘Man Up.'" The New York Times Magazine, Sep. 5. 2010)

  • The Difference Between Phrasal Verbs and Prepositional Verbs
    "A phrasal verb differs from a sequence of a verb and a preposition (a prepositional verb) in [these] respects. Here call up is a phrasal verb, while call on is only a verb plus a preposition:

    1. The particle in a phrasal verb is stressed: They called up the teacher, but not *They called on the teacher.
    2. The particle of a phrasal verb can be moved to the end: They called the teacher up, but not *They called the teacher on.
    3. The simple verb of a phrasal verb may not be separated from its particle by an adverb: *They called early up the teacher is no good, but They called early on the teacher is fine."
    (R.L. Trask, Dictionary of English Grammar. Penguin, 2000)
Also Known As: compound verb, verb-adverb combination, verb-particle combination, two-part verb, three-part verb
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