Phrasal Verbs: Everything you need to know

Andrew Dinu

Phrasal verbs are a fundamental part of English, offering a nuanced way to express ideas. Let’s break down what phrasal verbs are, explore their types, and look at examples to make this aspect of the language more approachable.

What are Phrasal Verbs?

Phrasal verbs are combinations of a main verb and one or more particles, like prepositions or adverbs. These combinations create a new meaning that might not be immediately obvious from the individual words.


Break up: The couple decided to break up after years of disagreements.

What are the Types of Phrasal Verbs?

Phrasal verbs come in three main types: Intransitive, transitive separable, and transitive inseparable.

1. Intransitive Phrasal Verbs

No direct object is needed for these verbs.

Phrasal VerbMeaningExample
Wake upStop sleeping and become consciousShe wakes up early every morning.
Come inEnter a placePlease come in and make yourself at home.

2. Transitive Separable Phrasal Verbs

These verbs can be separated by their direct object.

Phrasal VerbMeaningExample
Take offRemove clothing or accessoriesShe took off her coat and hat.
Look upSearch for informationCan you look up that word in the dictionary?

3. Transitive Inseparable Phrasal Verbs

These verbs cannot be separated by their direct object.

Phrasal VerbMeaningExample
Run intoMeet unexpectedlyI ran into an old friend at the mall.
Put up withTolerate or endureI can’t put up with his constant complaining.

Common Particles Used in Phrasal Verbs

Understanding the common particles used in phrasal verbs is essential. Here are some examples:

UpGive up, Pick up
DownBreak down, Put down
OffTake off, Turn off
OnTurn on, Put on
OutHang out, Check out

Tips for Learning Phrasal Verbs

Context Matters: Pay attention to the context to understand the intended meanings of phrasal verbs.

Use in Sentences: Practice using phrasal verbs in sentences to reinforce understanding.

Memorization Techniques: Employ memory aids, such as flashcards or creating sentences reflecting the meaning of the phrasal verb.

FAQs About Phrasal Verbs

1. What are phrasal verbs exactly?

Phrasal verbs are combos of a main verb and extra words (prepositions or adverbs). They create a specific meaning, often different from the words by themselves.

2. Can you give an example of an intransitive phrasal verb?

Sure! An intransitive phrasal verb is “wake up.” For instance: “She wakes up early every morning.”

3. How do transitive separable phrasal verbs differ?

Transitive separable phrasal verbs can be split by a direct object.

For example, in “She took off her coat and hat,” “took off” is the phrasal verb, and “coat and hat” are the direct objects.

4. What are Phrasal Verbs and How Can You Master Them?

Phrasal verbs, vital in English, combine main verbs with particles like prepositions or adverbs, creating nuanced meanings. Types include intransitive, transitive separable, and transitive inseparable.

Learning tips: grasp common particles, understand context, practice in sentences, and use memorization aids for effective mastery.

5. Are phrasal verbs okay to use in formal writing?

While some may be less common in formal writing, many are perfectly fine. It depends on the formality of the context.


Phrasal verbs is a gradual process that adds depth to your language proficiency. By incorporating them into your daily communication and paying attention to their usage, you’ll find yourself expressing ideas more precisely in English. Use the tips provided, and enjoy the journey of expanding your linguistic toolkit.