A phrasal verb can be:
- a verb + a preposition
- a verb + an adverb
- a verb + an adverb + a preposition.
|Structure of phrasal verbs|
|A phrasal verb can be made up of:||a verb + adverb||throw away|
|a verb + preposition||look into|
|a verb + adverb + preposition||put up with|
Transitive vs. intransitive phrasal verbs
Some phrasal verbs are transitive (they need to have an object), and some are intransitive (they never have an object).
Some can be both transitive and intransitive as we can see here with the verb look up:
1. look up [intransitive]: After a horrible year last year things are starting to look up. (things are getting better now)
2. look up [transitive]: I always look up the words I don’t know. (I look in the dictionary for the words)
In example 1. above the verb look up is intransitive and so has no object.
In example 2. above the verb look up is transitive; words is the object of the verb.
Position of the object of a phrasal verb
1. When we use a phrasal verb + adverb, the position of the object (a noun) is flexible, i.e. it can sit either between the verb and the adverb or after the adverb:
She gave all her money away. [between the verb and the adverb]
She gave away all her money. [after the adverb]
When the object is a pronoun (him, her, us, them, etc.) it must sit between the verb and the adverb:
She gave it away.
She gave away it.
2. When we use a phrasal verb + preposition, the object (regardless of whether it’s a noun or pronoun) must sit after the preposition:
We looked after the children.
We looked after them.
We looked the children after.
We looked them after.