Grammar Lesson of the Month: Phrasal Verbs

May 1, 2012

It is that time again: Grammar Lesson of the Month! Last month was all about Conditionals, but this month, we are focusing on Phrasal Verbs.

What is a phrasal verb? There are a few types, but the most common phrasal verb is a verb + preposition. (The preposition becomes called a “particle” in this case.) Individually, the verb and particle have separate meanings; together, these two words make a new word (a phrasal verb) that has a completely different meaning.

For example, take the phrasal verb “put off.”

– Put means: “to place something somewhere”

– “Off” is the opposite of “on.”

– But together, “put off” does not equal the meaning of both definitions combined. Instead, it means “to postpone; to do later.”

Additionally, there are several main factors of phrasal verbs:

1. Separable vs. Non-separable

Can you put a noun between the VERB and the PARTICLE? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no.

Example 1: I will pick you up at eight. (correct: pick up is separable)

Example 2: I put my homework off. (incorrect: put off is non-separable)

But wait! PUT OFF is separable . . . when you use a pronoun.

Example 3: I put it off until today.

(We know . . . phrasal verbs can be confusing!)

2. Transitive vs. Intransitive

Does the phrasal verb need an object?

Example 1: I will pick up my brother at eight. (Transitive: you always PICK UP a person or a thing.)

Example 2: I looked for my glasses for two hours, and they finally turned up. (Intransitive: something can TURN UP without an object.)

Do you think you can pick up what these phrasal verbs mean? Don’t put out too much effort trying to figure out the definitions! If you do, you might pass out from putting forth so much effort!


Pick up: to understand (also, to physically pick something up from the ground)

Put out: to try, to make an attempt

Figure out: to discover, to understand

Pass out: to faint (also, to give/hand out)


The only way to master phrasal verbs is to practice, practice, practice! Are you interested in becoming a phrasal verb professional? Tune in tomorrow for another lesson and a new way to learn about phrasal verbs!

Tune in: to watch

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