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What Is The Definition of Phrasal Verbs: Literal And Idiomatic
Phrasal verbs are the combination of two or three words that are considered from different grammatical categories, like a verb + preposition or adverb. However, there are also two different definitions of phrasal verbs, literal and idiomatic:
Literal Phrasal Verbs
The majority of phrasal verbs have a literal, obvious meaning that can be understood from the two words (if you know the meaning of each individual word). For example:
- The dentist took off my tooth today.
- He ran out of his room.
Idiomatic Phrasal Verbs
Phrasal verbs can become a bit confusing because their meanings would less obvious, and sometimes, hard to guess. You can understand its meaning from the context, but other than that, it can be challenging. For example:
- We ran out of milk so quickly.
- Don’t forget to take out holiday insurance before you leave.
- I put in 10 hours a day of work at my current job.
Can you guess the meaning of these examples? Any luck?
Examples of Phrasal Verbs: All You Need To Know
Let’s go over some examples:
🡲 Take off:
- The plane has just taken off. (the plane is leaving the ground)
- Feel free to take off your jacket. (remove)
🡲 The meaning of the original verb is transformed by the preposition. Sometimes phrasal verbs are easy to understand because the particle has a literal meaning:
Stand up, go away, get in, get out, jump down, climb up
But many phrasal verbs have figurative or idiomatic meanings and may be synonymous with another one-word verb, very often with a Latin root:
🡲 Some phrasal verbs can have an object which can go either before or after the particle – this is called a separable phrasal verb:
- They put off the meeting.
- They put the meeting off.
🡲 If the object is very long, then it’s better to keep the verb and particle together.
The assistant wrote down both the caller’s home and mobile phone numbers.
🡲 If you use a pronoun then it has to go between the verb and the particle:
They put it off. The assistant wrote them down.
Inseparable Phrasal Verbs Are Those That Cannot Be Separated
The phrasal verbs that require an object don’t allow an object to come between the verb and particle. It is a necessity for the verb to be followed by the object, which is why they are called Inseparable Phrasal Verbs.
Here is a list of inseparable phrasal verbs and their simplified meanings:
- Please hold on. (wait)
- I’ll look into this matter. (investigate)
- I ran into my old colleague at the cafeteria. (meet unexpectedly)
- The packaging machine broke down last week. (be out of order)
- She got over her illness very quickly. (recover)
- My sister is staying home to look after the children today. (take care of)
- Dave took up computer programming when he was out of work. (begin learning something)
- I came across an interesting article in the paper. (discover by accident)
By looking at the prepositions and their most common meanings, you can often guess the meaning of the phrasal verb:
|To become less or completely to the ground or stopping completely or on paper
|• Turn down the music.
• Bring down prices.
• Knock down a building.
• A factory closed down.
• Write down the message
• Note down the information.
|Away, departing, or disconnected
|• Drove off into the sunset.
• See someone off at the airport.
• The plane took off.
• Switch off the light.
• Cut off the power.
|Connected or wearing or continuing
|• Turn on the computer.
• Leave on the lights.
• Try on the jacket.
• Carry on working.
• Drive on a bit further.
|away, disappearing or distributing or out loud or from start to finish
|• Cross out a mistake.
• Give out presents, read out the names.
• Write out a list.
|increasing or completely
|• Taxes are going up.
• Fill up the car with gas
• Rip up the paper
• Catch up to them.
• Eat up all the food.
List Of Phrasal Verbs You Could Use: Learn And Organize
Another way to learn and organize phrasal verbs is to take a verb and look at the different particles that are most frequently used with it:
|Asking someone to come and help.
|I called in the local builder to help us.
|I need to call on my neighbor for details.
|He has to call out for them.
|leave out of a vehicle
|My father dropped me off next to your building.
|leave school before graduating
|My brother dropped off in high school.
|Pull forward, plan, arrive
|My grandparents drew up a new will.
|be slower than others
|During my absence, I fell behind in a few classes.
|Fall out with
|no longer speak with someone
|He had fallen out with his sister.
|Our plans to go to Mexico fell through.
|complete a form/document
|I have to fill in these school documents today.
|Get along/on with
|have a good relationship with
|Your sister and I get along very well.
|travel, move about, circulate
|The new bus helps me get around easily.
|We have to get into the new museum.
|leave a transportation
|You should get off the train right now.
|perform or make progress in a specified way / have a good relationship with someone
|-Your siblings seem to get on pretty well.
|Get rid of
|You need to get rid of this trash.
|reach on the phone, survive
|I have been calling him but I can’t get through.
|You need to get to the office as soon as possible.
|She has to get up very early tomorrow.
|He finally gave in to my suggestions.
|I could never give up on my pets.
|They had to go around the entire neighborhood to find me.
|Let’s go out tonight.
|review in details
|Can we go over the contract again?
|The cost of gas is going up again.
|Have somebody over
|I am having my in-laws over tonight.
|Have under the belt
|She has her Ph.D. under the belt.
|Keep up with
|continue, carry on
|I can’t keep up with this job any longer.
|to forget something when you leave
|I left my phone behind on the bus.
|Leave out the Mayonnaise from my sandwich, please.
|prevent from leaving
|My dog was kept locked in the apartment.
|I got locked out of my house because I forgot the keys.
|imprison Look after
|The criminal has to be locked up for years.
|Look at my new dress!
|Look for strawberries when you go to the store.
|Look forward to
|waiting for or anticipate something
|I look forward to hearing from you.
|to visit or check
|You have to look in on your parents every day.
|I will look into your application shortly.
|You should always look out for thieves.
|Can you pass along the olives?
|miss the details
|I feel like life is passing by quickly.
|not give consideration to
|I am sad I wasn’t passed over for that job.
|quickly go through
|Bill is passing through your neighborhood.
|postpone, set a later date, disgust
|You should pull off that assignment until later.
|become stable or calm
|Katie finally decided to settle down and get married.
|To end a letter
|Sign off your resignation paper before next week.
|agreeing to join
|David agreed to sign on our new project.
|indicate a departure by signing a register
|We have to sign out before leaving the hotel.
|We need to sign up for that Yoga class.
|Slow down while driving, please.
|understand, make clothing fit more tightly, to be fooled
|I had to be silent and take in the information I was given.
|The airplane will take off at 6 am.
|Let’s take this party out to the garden.
|take control of
|He was busy, so I had to take over dinner.
|Your cat has taken to sleeping on my bed.
|To fill or occupy time or space
|This game takes up a lot of space on my phone.
|Amy turned down my offer to help.
|The band came in after they set off.
|eliminate or enter a loss
|My wife wrote off the tickets.
|write information explicitly and in detail
|The students have to write out all the exercises.
🡲 Sometimes the phrasal verb can be transformed into a noun (usually in the same order – verb + particle, but sometimes in reversed order):
- They had a falling-out and no longer speak to each other.
- The machine had a breakdown.
- The economy has been in a downturn for the past year.
Structure Of 3 – Word Phrasal Verbs: Verbs + 2 Particles
The phrasal verbs in the previous examples contained a verb and ONE particle. However, 3-word phrasal verbs also exist (one verb + 2 particles) and often have figurative meanings which we cannot always guess from looking at the individual words:
- All the members of the team get along well with each other. (have a good relationship with)
- It’s hard to keep up with him when he walks as he’s got long legs. (go as fast as)
- Look out for pickpockets when you go to very touristy areas. (be careful about)
- I’ve decided not to put up with all their angry arguments. (tolerate)
- We’ve run out of paper in the photocopier. (have none left)
- The finance department has asked us to cut down on extra expenses. (reduce)
- They’ve decided to do away with paper files. (abolish)
- Our manager can never face up to his responsibilities. (not avoid)
- I’ll take you up on your offer. (accept)
- The shop quickly sold out of the new line of mobile phones. (sell everything)
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