What is a phrasal verb?
It is a phrase which combines two or three words: a verb + a particle and/or a preposition. The meaning of this combination is mostly different from the meaning of its single parts.
put ≠ put up with:
I put a plate on the table. I can't put up with this situation. "Put up with" is a phrasal verb.
turn ≠ turn down:
Drive straight ahead and then turn right. Turn the music down, it's too loud. "Turn down" is a phrasal verb.
Phrasal particle verbs
These phrasal verbs are a combination of a verb + particle. They can be used alone (intransitive) or with an object (transitive).
Examples of intransitive particle verbs
What time did you get up?
The dog ran away again.
Why is he always showing off?
If the phrasal verb is transitive, we can put the object before or after the particle.
Can you turn the lights off?
Can you turn off the lights?
But if the object is a pronoun (me, you, him etc.), we always put it directly after the verb.
He never lets them down. WRONG lets down them.
Pick me up at seven, please! WRONG pick up me
A prepositional verb is an idiomatic combination of verb + preposition. Using any other preposition would be grammatically incorrect.
Why are you staring at me? WRONG staring on me
Peter applied for the job. WRONG applied to the job
We can't separate the verb from the preposition by putting the object in between. The object always goes after the preposition.
Can you look after the kids? WRONG look the kids after
I don't agree with you. WRONG agree you with
How to learn phrasal verbs
There are lots of phrasal and prepositional verbs, and sometimes a phrasal verb has more than one meaning. We suggest learning them like you would learn new words or irregular verbs. Some phrasal verbs are easier to remember because they are very often used. We'll cover some very common phrasal verbs in the exercises on this topic.