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Phrasal Verbs in English – A Summary

1. Examples of Phrasal Verbs

Many verbs in English can be followed by an adverb or proposition; they are then known as Phrasal Verbs or Prepositional Verbs. Many people just say Phrasal Verbs to talk about both types.

The meaning of these combinations is often very different from the verb and the adverb or preposition on their own.

Let’s look at the verb come. Combined with adverbs or prepositions the phrases have new meanings. Look at the following examples:

  • come about – The meeting came about by chance. (to happen unexpectedly)
  • come across – When I was cleaning my room, I came across my old diaries. (to find something by accident)
  • come along – We’re going to the town. Want to come along? (to go with someone when going somewhere)
  • come back – He’s still hoping his ex-girlfriend will come back to him. (to return)
  • come down with – She came down with a virus. (to fall ill)
  • come off – The paint is starting to come off the wall. (when something separates from another thing)
  • come out – It’s cloudy right now, but the sun should come out later. (appear or leave the inside of a place)
  • come over – If you come over tomorrow after school, we can play together. (to visit someone’s house)
  • come up – Sorry I’m late. Something came up at work. (to appear unexpectedly)
  • come up with – We need to come up with a good reason for being late. (to think of a solution, excuse, etc.,)

1.1. Phrasal Verbs

These verbs consist of verb + adverb. Phrasal Verbs can stand alone (intransitive verbs) or they can be used together with an object.

  • Sit down.
  • He picked up the toy.

If there is an adverb in the sentence the phrasal verb can be put before or after the object.

  • He switched the light off. or
  • He switched off the light.

If you use the pronoun it in place of “the light”, the pronoun has to go between the verb and the adverb.

  • He switched it off.

1.2. Prepositional Verbs

These verbs consist of verb + preposition. The object has to go after the preposition. The object must not go between the verb and the preposition. Prepositional Verbs cannot be separated.

  • He walked down the path.
  • incorrect: He walked the path down.