Using “it” with phrasal verbs

Many verbs are made up of two parts: a verb and an adverb. These verbs are called phrasal verbs.

Examples of phrasal verbs include throw away, put in, give up and wake up.

One tricky thing when using phrasal verbs is knowing where to put the object of the verb. Do we put it directly after the verb? Should it go after the verb and the adverb?

To show you what I mean, let’s use the verb plug in (meaning ‘connect a device to electricity using a cable’):

  • I plugged in my computer. ✓
  • I plugged my computer in. ✓

As you can see, the object (my computer) can sit either after the adverb or directly before the adverb, which in this case was the word in. Here’s another example:

  • I picked up my phone. ✓
  • I picked my phone up. ✓

Again, the object can sit either before or after the adverb, which in this case was the word up.

!! Now be careful! If we use the pronoun it instead of computer or phone, we place it between the verb and the adverb:

  • My computer’s battery was dead so I plugged it in. ✓
  • I plugged in it.
  • My phone was on the floor so I picked it up. ✓
  • I picked up it.

phrasal verbs object position

Here’s a fun Youtube video from Vicki Hollett, who explains this rule as she makes a smoothie. Vicki uses phrasal verbs such as turn on and turn off, put in and take out.

For more examples of where to place objects with both phrasal and prepositional verbs, take a look here:
Phrasal verbs vs. prepositional verbs: position of the object


Stuart is an English teacher and runs the Speakspeak website. He currently lives in Prague and has been teaching for over 20 years. Follow Stuart and contact him by subscribing to his monthly newsletter.


  1. ANTONIO SANCHEZ - June 17, 2014, 5:50 pm Reply

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  2. Arsenal - July 1, 2014, 5:54 am Reply

    excuse me, how can i practice English in this website or where to do exercises of English gammar in this web? I want to practise after each lesson to get more understanding but i can not find it.

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