Phrasal verbs and other multiword verbs

Phrasal Verbs and other multi-word verbs

Phrasal verbs are part of a large group of verbs called “multi-word verbs”. Phrasal verbs and other multi-word verbs are an important part of the English language. Multi-word verbs, including phrasal verbs, are very common, especially in spoken English. A multi-word verb is a verb like “pick up”, “turn on” or “get on with”. For convenience, many people refer to all multi-word verbs as phrasal verbs. These verbs consist of a basic verb + another word or words. The other word(s) can be prepositions and/or adverbs. The two or three words that make up multi-word verbs form a short “phrase” – which is why these verbs are often all called “phrasal verbs”.

The important thing to remember is that a multi-word verb is still a verb. “Get” is a verb. “Get up”, is also a verb, a different verb. “Get” and “get up” are two different verbs. They do not have the same meaning. So you should treat each multi-word verb as a separate verb, and learn it like any other verb. Look at these examples. You can see that there are three types of multi-word verb:

single-word verb look direct your eyes in a certain direction You must look before you leap.
multi-word verbs phrasal verb look up search for and find information in a reference book You can look up my number in the telephone directory.
prepositional verb look after take care of Who is looking after the baby?
phrasal-prepositional verb look forward to anticipate with pleasure look forward to meeting you.

In this lesson we look at the three types of multi-word verbs, including phrasal verbs, followed by a quiz to check your understanding:


Like many grammar books, we divide multi-word verbs into:

    • prepositional verbs
    • phrasal verbs
    • phrasal-prepositional verbs

Other grammars, however, call all multi-word verbs “phrasal verbs”.


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