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Phrasal Verbs vs. Prepositional Verbs

Phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs may look similar, but they do not act the same.

1. What is a phrasal verb?

Phrasal verbs are verbs that contain two or more words.
The first word is a verb, and the second is an adverb. The adverb changes the verb.

VerbPhrasal verbExample
putput awayHe put away the toys into the box.
bringbring upHillary brought up the price rise at the meeting.
blowblow upThe car blew up a little after 2am.
pickpick upI need to pick up the children from school at 3 o’clock.
beatbeat upPhillip beat up Dave because Dave ate Phillip’s pudding.
taketake apartCandy took apart the phone but now cannot put it together again.
callcall offThe game was called off because of snow.
carecare forIt is very kind of you to care for your grandmother.

2. What is a prepositional verb?

Prepositional verbs are also verbs that contain two or more words.

However, in a prepositional verb the second word does not change the verb meaning.
It is a preposition which says where the verb goes.

VerbPrepositional verbExample
putput downPut down the gun and come out with your hands up.
believebelieve inDo you believe in God?
getget onThey got on the train at Crewe.
take caretake care ofShe takes care of her sick husband.
looklook forThey are looking for their lost dog.
workwork forI work for a terrible company.
apologiseapologise forI apologise for my husband’s behaviour.
sympathisesympathise withShe sympathises with him, but still has to fire him.

3. Splitting verbs

Phrasal verbs can be split.
This means the subject can be put inside the phrasal verbs.

Prepositional verbs cannot be split.

Phrasal verbSubjectExample of subject inside phrasal verb
put awaythe toysDaisy put the toys away in their box.
blow upthe carThe gang blew the car up at 2am.
beat upDavePhillip beat Dave up again, this time because Dave ate Phillip’s cookies.
turn onthe televisionCould you turn the television on?
turn downthe job offerI think you were right to turn the job offer down.

4. Exercises

Which of these are phrasal verbs, and which are prepositional verbs?
(i) give up
(ii) push against
(iii) turn off
(iv) write down
(v) read along

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