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Free Grammar HelpWordsPhrasal Verbs

Some verbs consist of more than one word: they are phrases. These are called "phrasal verbs." A phrasal verb has a specific meaning when it is in its phrase form that is different than the verb alone. The individual words do not convey the same meaning. Usually a phrasal verb is formed by a verb plus a preposition, or a verb plus an adjective. For example, the phrasal verb "throw up" means "to vomit." When "throw" and "up" are used separately, a different meaning is conveyed.

Phrasal verbs are allowed to violate the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition. Look it up.

In the sentences below all the phrasal verbs are in red. The verb examples that are not phrasal are in blue. One example of a phrasal verb is take out. I can go to the library to take out (borrow) a book, but it is a different thing to take out (go on a date with) your sister. Often a phrasal verb has the verb and preposition/adjective together, but they can be separate. One example is talk into (convince.) In this phrasal verb, the one being convinced appears between "talk" and "into." You can talk me into it. I talked him into robbing the bank. She talked me into marrying her. Look up is similar. I will look up the number. I will look it up. (Never: "I will look up it.") You can look up a chimney, or you can look up a number, but only with a chimney can you look up it, because this is the normal sense of look. Speaking of looking up, you can look a number up, or you can look up a number; it doesn't matter! But many phrasal verbs are less flexible.