What Is Phrasal Verbs in English Grammar? Examples and Exercises

Sayapatri and Sukumar looked at each other.
The child looked up the word in the dictionary.

In the above sentences the verb look has two parts — a main verb (look) and another small word ( at, up ). In sentence 1, the small words at is a prepositional particle and in sentence 2, up is an adverb particle.

These verbs are known as two-word verbs. The verb group in sentence 2 is known as a phrasal verb. We can say, a phrasal verb is formed when an adverb particle is added to the main verb to make a new verb. The verb has a new meaning most of the times.

For example :

I have run out of money.
The people of Manali are looking forward to a new source of living.

Phrasal Verbs : Their Meanings :

Some phrasal verbs are very easy to understand. For example :

We went round the city.
Prices have come down.

In the above sentences we can easily understand the meanings of the phrasal verbs (went round, come down) if we have understood the meaning of the words they are made up of.

Now look at the following phrasal verbs.

Our request was turned down.
Lisa and Misa have fallen out.

We cannot guess the meaning of the phrasal verbs in the above sentences even if we know the meanings of the words which make them. The meaning of ‘turn down’ has nothing to do with the meanings of ‘turn’ and ‘down’. Similar is the case with ‘fallen out’.

The phrasal verbs here give us quite different meanings. ‘Turned down’ means rejected and ‘fallen out’ means quarrelled. Most phrasal verbs of this type can be replaced by a single-word verb.

Transitive and Intransitive use :

Like the ordinary verbs, phrasal verbs can be transitive or intransitive i.e. they can have either objects or no objects at all. Look at the following sentences :

.My car has broken down.
The plane took off late.

Both the phrasal verbs do not have any objects. They are intransitive phrasal verbs.

Now study the following sentences :

We have set up a school.
I cannot make out your words.
Would you please turn on the light?

In the above sentences, the phrasal verbs have objects. They are transitive phrasal verbs.

Some phrasal verbs can be used both transitively and intransitively with or without a change in their meanings. For example.

(a) Intransitive :The battery has run down ( = become weak)
(b) Transitive : (i)You will run down the battery if you use it long. (no change in meaning)
(ii)He is always running down his neighbours (= criticise : change in meaning)

Turn out :

Intransitive: The whole town turned out to welcome the winning football team. (came out into the street)
Transitive; This factory turns out two hundred cars a week. (produce)

Give out :

Intransitive: His patience gave out and he slapped the child hard. (became exhausted)
Transitive: The teacher gave out the books. (distribute, issue)

Look on:

Intransitive: Two men were fighting and the rest were looking on. (be the spectators)
Transitive: Most people look on a television set as an essential piece of furniture. (consider)

Common Phrasal Verbs, Prepositional Verbs and Phrasal Prepositional Verbs :

Break down :

(i) (= stop functioning, fail)
The car has broken down.
(ii) (= collapse, burst into tears)
She broke down when she heard of her husband’s death.

Break into :

(= enter by force)
Thieves broke into our house last night.

Break in :

(i) (=interrupt a discussion)
She broke in as he was speaking.
(ii) (=tame)
It will be difficult to break that horse in.

Break off :

(= stop for a rest or break)
Let’s break off for ten minutes.

Bring out :

(= publish)
The publishers have brought out a new edition.

Bring up :

(= educate/rear)
He was brought up by his uncle.

Call up :

(= summon or telephone)
I’ll call you up if I need your help.

Call on :

(= visit)
They called on me yesterday for about an hour.

Call off :

(= cancel)
The workers have decided to call off their strike.

Carry out :

(= execute)
I expect her to carry out her promises.

Carry on :

(= continue)
Carry on with your work.

Do up :

(i) (= fasten)
Do up your shoes!
He forgot to do up the zip.
(ii) (= decorate)
She did up the room.

Get on :

(= fare, make progress)
It is hard work, but I’m getting on quite well.

Get over :

(= overcome)
He got over his difficulties.

Give up :

(i) (= stop)
He is trying to give up smoking.

Give in :

(i) (= surrender, yield)
He gave up his seat on the bus to an old lady.

Give away :

(= distribute) The Chief Guest gave away the prizes.

keep up :

(i) (= prevent from getting low)
Keep up your courage/spirits.
(ii) (= maintain the same speed or level)
You are walking too fast, I cannot keep up.

lay by :

( = put away for future use / save) Lay by something.

leave out :

(= omit)
If you can’t think of the answer to that question, leave it out.

look after :

(= take care of)
She has looked after her elderly parents for many years.

look for :

(= try to find)
I am looking for a new house.

look over :

(= examine carefully)
I would like to look over these documents.

look into :

(= investigate)
The police are looking into the matter.

Make off :

(= depart hurriedly)
The cat made off as soon as the dog appeared.

Make out :

(= understand)
His writing is always difficult to make out.

Make up :

(i) (= settle, reestablish good relations)
They have made up their quarrel at last.
(ii) (= invent)
Did you make that story up, or is it true?
(iii) (= supply deficiency)
It will take a long time to make up the loss.

Pick out :

(= choose)
Would you pick out the oranges you want ?

Pick up :

(i) (= get, acquire)
He has picked up some bad habits.
(ii) (= recover after an illness)
He is picking up again, I am glad to say.

Put down :

(= suppress by force)
The police put the riot down.

Put off :

(= postpone)
Don’t put off today’s work for tomorrow. They have put off the meeting because of bad weather.

Put out :

( = extinguish, turn off) Shall I put out the light ?

Put up :

(i) (= stay, live)
He puts up at a little hotel in the town.
(ii) (= raise)
The boy put his hand up to ask a question.
(iii) (= accommodate)
Would you put them up here for the night ?

Set in :

(= begin, start)
Winter has set in.

Set off/set out :

(= start a journey)
He set off/set out on a long journey.

Set up :

(= start, establish)
He set up a school for poor children.

Take down :

(= write down)
The reporter took down the speech.

Take off :

(i) (= leave the ground)
The aeroplane took off smoothly.
(ii) (= remove)
He took off his hat.

Take over :

(= accept duty)
When Mr Pattnaik retired, his son took over the business.

Get away with :

(= escape)
The thief got away with a lot of money.

Get on with :

( = make progress) How are you getting on with your studies?

Go back on :

(= fail to keep)
I won’t go back on my word.

Go in for :

(=like or enjoy)
Lots of people go in for cricket these days.

Keep up with :

(= go forward at an equal pace with)
He could not keep up with the class.

look forward to :

(= anticipate eagerly)
We are looking forward to seeing you again.

Make up for :

(= compensate for)
He tried to make up for all the trouble he had caused.

Run out of :

(= have no time left)
I have run out of time.

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