How to Use English Phrasal Verbs
English vocabulary consists of many phrasal verbs. You can find them in conversation, business English, movies, songs, books, and virtually everywhere people communicate in English!
- You give up something (verb + ing). For example, I gave up smoking in 1995.
- You give something up. For example, I gave it up in 1995.
- You cannot say, “I gave up it in 1995.”
Pronouns, such as YOU, HIM, HER, THEM, US, and IT go between the verb and the prepositional particle.
I picked up my parents at the airport. I picked them up at the airport.
(I went to the airport to get or collect my parents.)
If a phrasal verb consists of two particles, such as look forward to, pronouns go after the last particle.
I am looking forward to my holiday. I am looking forward to it.
(I am anticipating and excited about my future holiday.)
Be careful, because there are many exceptions. For example, the phrasal verb deal with only has one particle, but pronouns go after with and not between deal and with.
I have to deal with customers who have bad attitudes. I have to deal with them.
Phrasal verbs and other multi-word verbs are an important part of the English language.
However, they are mainly used in spoken English and informal texts. They should be
avoided in academic writing where it is preferable to use a formal verb such as “to postpone”
rather than “to put off”.
Transitive and intransitive phrasal verbs :
Some phrasal verbs are transitive. (A transitive verb always has an object.)
Example : I made up an excuse. (‘Excuse’ is the object of the verb.)
Some phrasal verbs are intransitive . (An intransitive verb does not have an object.)
Example : My car broke down.
Separable or inseparable phrasal verbs :
Some transitive phrasal verbs are separable. (The object is between the verb and the preposition.)
Example : I looked the word up in the dictionary.
Some transitive phrasal verbs are inseparable. (The object is placed after the preposition.)
Example : I will look into the matter as soon as possible.
Some transitive phrasal verbs can take an object in both places.
Example : I picked up the book.
I picked the book up.
However, if the object is a pronoun, it must be placed between the verb and the preposition.
Example : I picked it up.