Splitting Phrasal Verbs

1. Review: what is a phrasal verb?

Phrasal verbs are verbs with two or more words.
The first word is a verb.
The second word changes the verb.

They picked up the new television this afternoon.The instructions say to cut out a square from the cardboard.
He took apart the Lego.If you put in some extra work, you will get promoted.
Please hang on a minute.The boys went to the park, and Amy came along too.

*Prepositional verbs are also verbs with two or more words.
However, prepositional verbs do not change the verb. They just say where the verb is going.

2. Some phrasal verbs can be split

The object after a phrasal verb can sometimes be put inside the phrasal verb.

1. Phrasal verbs that need an object (transitive verbs) can be split.
2. Phrasal verbs that don’t need an object (intransitive verbs) are not split.

Transitive phrasal verbObjectExample of split phrasal verb
put awaythe boxDonna put the box away.
beat upDavePhillip beat Dave up.
take upboxingDave will take boxing up.
turn onthe televisionShe will turn the television on.
Intransitive phrasal verbObjectExample
grow upDave is an idiot who needs to grow up.
carry onI am tired but I will carry on.
get onJames and Kay really get on.
close downThe shop on George Street is closing down.

3. Pronouns and transitive phrasal verbs

Transitive phrasal verbs take objects.
These phrasal verbs can be split.

However, if the object of the sentence is an object pronoun, the transitive phrasal verb must be split.

*Object pronouns are me, you, it, him, her, us, them

Sentence without object pronounYesNo
He put away the boxes.He put them away.He put away them.
Dave took up boxing last month.Dave took it up last month.Dave took up it last month.
Fiona wrote down the message.Fiona wrote it down.Fiona wrote down it.
Malik looked up the Louis XV and Louis XVI in the encyclopaedia. Malik looked them up in the encyclopaedia.Malik looked up them in the encyclopaedia.

4. Exercises

1. Split these phrasal verbs:
(i) I took out the box.
(ii) He washed up the blood.
(iii) She divided up the money.

2. Object pronouns mean a transitive phrasal verb must be split. Therefore all these sentences are wrong. Make these sentences correct:
(i) She beat up him
(ii)They took away it.
(iii) The car ran over it.

3. Which of these sentences are OK?
(i) He tidied up the room.
He tidied up it.
(ii) They burnt down it.
They burnt down the house.
(iii) She put out the garbage.
She put out it.

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