Handling Phrasal Verbs in Terms of Meaning of the Particles

The practical use of Phrasal Verbs with Particles
: ✔ 05.03.2018

.. Handling Phrasal Verbs in Terms of Meaning of the Particles //

The greatest difficulty at studying of phrasal verbs is their semantics. Often the pretext helps to understand sense of this or that phrasal verb. The practical part of this work consists in analysis of phrasal verbs.

Handling Phrasal Verbs in Terms of Meaning of the Particles

According to English Club Tip, the phrasal verb is a part of, such called, multi-word verbs. This English Club divides multi-word verbs into:

  1. prepositional verbs
  2. phrasal verbs
  3. phrasal prepositional verbs.

If the multi-word verb is composed of a verb + preposition, this verb is a prepositional verb. And because a preposition always has an object, all prepositional verbs have direct object.

Prepositional verbs



Direct object

1. look after

take care of

He is looking after

the dog

2. talk about


Did you talk about


Prepositional verbs cannot be separated. That means that we cannot put the direct object between the two parts. For example, we must say "look after the baby". We cannot say "look the baby after".

If the multi-word verb is compound from verb + adverb, according to the English Club Tip, this is a phrasal verb. Such combinations of verb + adverb can be separable if the verb is a transitive verb (that is, they have a direct object). We can usually separate the two parts. For example "turn down" is a separable phrasal verb. We can say: "turn down my offer" or "turn my offer down".

Look at this table:

Transitive phrasal verbs are separable




my offer.



my offer


However, if the direct object is a pronoun, we have no choice. We must separate the phrasal verb and insert the pronoun between the two parts. Look at this example with the separable phrasal verb "switch on".

Direct object pronouns must go between the two parts of transitive phrasal verbs




the radio

These are possible



the radio










This is not possible

If a multi-word verb consists of a verb + adverb + preposition this verb is called a phrasal-prepositional verb.

Ex.: run out of use up, exhaust: We have run out of eggs.

Put up with tolerate: I wont put up with your attitude.

The problem with phrasal verbs is that their meaning is that their meaning is often, at first, obscure, and they often mean several different things. To make out, for instance, can mean to perceive or to see something; it can also mean to engage in a light sexual play. If someone chooses to turn up the street that is a combination of a verb and a preposition, but it is not a phrasal verb. On the other hand, if your neighbors unexpectedly turn up (appear) at a party or your uncle turns up his radio, those are phrasal verbs. For example, to come out has eighteen different meanings.

This work also deals with the main categories of meaning of the particle that occur most frequently in the verbs. Knowing something about the different meanings of particles can help us learn and understand how phrasal verbs or combinations of verbs and particles are formed and help us understand new ones when we meat them.

When we look at verbs used with a particular particle, we can see that one particle can have several different meanings. We can easily recognize if the particle has the basic meaning.


We had better go back to the house. Its beginning to rain.

But in most cases, the meaning of phrasal verb is hard to understand.

Ex: 1. He was in bed for months, but he is getting about again = to move about, to go to places.

2. The story has got about everywhere = to spread (of a rumor or story)

3. Get about your work without further delay = to attend to ones duties.

Some verbs and particles keep their separate literal meaning.

Ex: He looked up from his book and smiled.

Also some particles can have a general meaning when combined with a certain group of verbs. For example, the particle round can be used to give the meaning of visiting someone informally.


They live in the next street and occasionally come round to spend an evening with us.

She isnt here at the moment. Shes gone round to see the woman next door.

Lets ask Ann and Mark round for a meal next week.

The particle that follower the verbs changes the meaning of the phrasal verb in idiomatic ways.

classification of the Particles, which Take Part in Formation of Phrasal Verbs

In order to understand, learn and use phrasal verbs correctly it is necessary to classificate the particles, which take part in formation of phrasal verbs. The following particles are discussed there: about, at, away, back, down, in off, out, to, up, with. (11)

1. Phrasal verbs using "about".

Is used as an adverb and a preposition. It is often used to show the connection between the verb and its object.


Since the business was going well the manager set about looking for new workers.

In some of the verbs, the particles around and, especially in British English, round, can be sued instead of about, without changing the meaning. The most common categories of meaning are:

Moving in different directions

Ex.: Ill run about a bit, Im quite chilly.

A conservative paper put about the idea that the country had lost a million punds of the transaction.

Doing nothing

Ex.: We just messed about at home all day.

Making something happen

Ex.: How did it come about that you went to live in the Far East?

Nobody could guess what brought about the quarrel.

Surrounding and enclosing

About can be used with some verbs to give the idea of something going round something and surrounding or enclosing it.

Ex.: This story is going about the town.

He gathered about him a group of people with the same political views.

2. Phrasal verbs using "at".

It is a common word in English and is often used to show where something or somebody is in space or time. It has two main meanings in verb and particle combinations.

1. Aiming and directing.

At is used with many verbs to give the idea of aiming or directing something at someone or something.

Ex.: Dont look at me like that!

He dropped his hat in the water and we couldnt get at it.

2. Attacking, striking and holding.

At can be used with verbs to give the idea of trying to attack, hit or hold someone or something.

Ex.: This legislation strikes at the most vulnerable people is society.

I know I have my faults but that is not reason why she should be constantly getting at me.

3. Phrasal verbs using "away".

The basic meaning of away indicates movement to a different place and it can be used with most verbs of movement.

Ex.: Dont ask her how she is, if she starts talking about her health youll never get away from her.

Off can be used instead of away with a similar meaning. Away often combines with another particle, particularly from. For example run away from, walk away from. The most common uses of the particle with verbs are the following:

Avoiding and not doing something.

Ex.: "Keep away from the fire" the mother kept saying to their little son.


Away is used with some verbs giving the meaning of becoming separated from something or from a group of people or of making this happen.

Ex.: She was called away from the meeting to deal with an emergency.


It gives the idea of something disappearing gradually.

Ex.: Many of these customs have passed away.

Working hard or continuously

Away can be used to indicate that you are doing something, especially working hard or doing something difficult or boring for a long period of time.

Ex.: Ruth spends hours in the library working away at Japanese.

Storing and hiding.

Away can be used with some verbs to convey the idea of putting something in a place either to keep it safe or to stop people finding it.

Ex.: She used to hide away in her room when she got depressed.

By and by he managed to put away a nice sum of money.

4. Phrasal verbs using "back".

Back is an adverb. The basic meaning of this particle is returning to the place where you were before or to an earlier time. Many verbs of movement use back with this meaning.

The other most common uses are:

Returning something

Back can be used to convey the idea of giving or taking something back in the place it came from.

Ex.: When are you going to give him back his camera?

I wrote and apologized, but he never wrote back.

Moving backwards; being behind or at a distance


The defeated German troops had to fall back.

He kept back from the team the fact that he was leaving them.

We had better go back to the house. Its beginning to rain.

Not making progress

Back in some combinations suggests being kept or held in a position without making any progress.

Ex.: I think shes being held back in class. She wants to move faster.

Being under control

Back in combinations often means reducing something or keeping something such as an emotion under control.

Ex.: He was so impatient that I could not hold him back.

She could hardly hold back the tears.

Looking at the past.

Back can be used to talk about the past.

Ex.: Looking back (on the past) I can say that he was up the mark.

5. Phrasal verbs using "down".

It often has meanings that are the opposite of "up". The literal meanings are movement in a downwards direction, moving from a higher to a lower position. Many combinations of verb and down refer to somebody putting something on a surface (lay down). It is also used to express figurative ideas related to downward movement, such as decreasing, being reduced or failing. As an adverb it combines with some prepositions to make three-word verbs such as look down on, come down with. The most common uses of down are:

Falling and destroying.

Ex.: New houses are going up in place of the old ones pulled down.

Its easier to pull down than to build up.


Down is used in many verbs that express the idea of something decreasing in amount, speed, cost, etc, or somebody making something do this.

Ex.: Will you turn the tape recorder down? The children are asleep.

Why havent you cut down your expenses?


Down expresses the idea of defeating someone or something or being defeated in an argument, a competition etc.

Ex.: The rebellion was severely put down.

Recording in writing

Ex.: Put that telephone number down before you forget it.

6. Phrasal verbs using "in".

"In" is often used as an adverb and a preposition. The basic meaning is contained inside something or somewhere or movement from outside to inside. It is often the opposite of out. The most common uses are:


Ex.: I forgot the key and couldnt get in.

Thieves broke in and stole the jewelry.


Ex.: As the train pulled in there was a rush to get seats.


It can be used in combinations that reffer to collecting things.

Ex.: It was a long dry summer and the harvest was easy to get in.

Tom will you get the sheep in?

Filling and completing

In is used to convey the idea of filling a drawing, a shpae, a hotel etc. with something and completing in.

Ex.: Somebody had parked in from of me, blocking me in.


Ex.: Stop cutting in with your remarks!

Staying inside

In can be used with verbs to express the idea of remaining inside or at home instead of going out somewhere.

Ex.: I decided to stay in and watch a new field on television.

Stopping doing something

Ex.: Though he was ill, he stuck at his work, and refused to give in.

7. Phrasal verbs using "off".

Often is used as an adverb and a preposition. It has a wide variety of meanings. It is often used verbs of movement to indicate movement away from a place, for example, run off, and hurry off.

Off can sometimes be replaced by away. The most common uses are:


Off is used to give the idea of somebody starting a journey or leaving a place or of making somebody or something do this.

Ex.: They set off early in the morning.

Ill see you off at the airport.


Off can also suggests that something is beginning.


Small things can sometimes spark off a row between people.

Ending; not happening

Ex.: The flight was called off.

We shall have to put off our outing until the weather improves.

Finishing completely.

Ex.: The demonstration went off quietly without any serious incidents.


Some verbs using the particle off indicate that you are trying to stop something happening or trying to protect somebody or yourself from something harmful or unpleasant.


The doctor advised him to keep off meat for half a year.

Being absent from work or school.

Ex.: She took three weeks off (work) to be with her sick mother.

Drawing attention

Off occurs in combination with some verbs that indicate that someone is drawing attention to themselves or their opinions in some way.

Ex.: Black clothes sets off her fair complexion.


This group of verbs is used for things such as weapons that explode or are fired.

Ex.: The bomb went off.

The gun went off before he was ready.


Off is used with some verbs to indicate that something is done dishonestly or with the intention of cheating someone.

Ex.: We were ripped off by the taxi driver. He charged more than double the normal price.

8. Phrasal verbs using "out".

The basic meaning is of movement from inside to outside, so it combines with many verbs of movement. Many verbs that combine with out also combine with the adverb plus preposition out of. Out and in can sometimes be used with the same verbs to express opposite meanings. The most common uses of out are:

1. Leaving.

Ex.: We set out for home late in the evening.

2. Searching, observing, solving.

Out gives the idea of searching for something such as a piece of information etc.

Ex.: Can you make out the meaning of this sentence? It is most incomprehensible.

3. Disappearing; using completely.

Ex.: I have run out of writing paper.

4. Stopping an activity.

Out is used in some verbs that describe an activity being stopped, often by using force or authority. Some verbs describe people or place being completely destroyed. Other verbs refer to a fire, etc. going out or being put out.

Ex.: The fire had burnt out before the fire engines arrived.

5. Producing.

Out can used with verbs to talk about things being produced, especially when they are produced quickly and in large quantities.

Ex.: The factory turns out 200 washing machines a day.

6. Being outside.

Ex.: When the plane landed he was the first to get out.

Jenny goes out a lot.

7. Speaking or shouting loudly.

Ex.: She was barking out orders at the children.

8. Excluding.

Out can be used in combinations that express the idea that someone or something is not included in an activity, a list, etc.

Ex.: Cross out the wrong answers.

9. Supporting.

Out is used with verbs that suggest helping or supporting somebody, especially with money or encouragement.

Ex.: I wonder if you could help me out. I have got a problem.

10. Choosing.

Ex.: She was picked out as the person most likely to succeed in the company.

9. Phrasal verbs using "to".

It is used with verbs of movement; it expresses the idea of direction. It generally shows the relationship between the verb and the person or thing that is affected by it. The most common means are:

1. Directing or aiming.

Ex.: I do not think children should be pandered to.

2. Showing relationship.

Ex.: Who does this skirt belong to?

10. Phrasal verbs using "up".

The particle up is the most common particle in phrasal verbs.

The boy walked out. (direction)

The boy stood by. (place)

The boy held his hand up. (physical orientation)

Like short adverbs, prepositions also indicate direction, place, or physical orientation; but they also specified a relationship between the verb and an object in the sentence.

Ex: The army charged up the hill (direction)

The painter stood by the house. (place)

The thief climbed out the window (direction)

Hand it over the fire. (physical orientation)

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