Ed Tyrrell

Phrasal Verbs – How can anyone ‘do without’ them?

Many students find themselves ‘shutting down’ upon hearing the term “Phrasal Verbs” and I suppose that I can understand why; there are thousands of them, literally!






However, I don’t agree with the idea that they are complicated! In essence, phrasal verbs are simply verbs; or, even more simply, vocabulary!

Verbs don’t usually frighten us; in fact, I’d even say that we are usually happy to learn interesting new verbs! Well, this is exactly the approach we should take for Phrasal Verbs.

Instead of trying to learn lists of phrasal verbs, or the different meanings associated to one phrasal verb, or all phrasal verbs with ‘the verb take’, we are going to look at 5 phrasal verbs in context, understand their meanings in those contexts, and then move on, happy because our vocabulary is now ‘+5’!

Here are the Phrasal verbs. Can you answer correctly? PV 5

Here are the answers. Were you right? PV 5 answers

However, in order to ensure that you understand the different types of Phrasal Verbs, I have ‘laid them out’ below for you to ‘read through’.

The 4 types of Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal Verb + no object (To go out – for fires/candles etc) (intransitive)

  • There’s no more fuel and the fire is going out! We’ll freeze!!
  • The main verb is changed in accordance with the tense(is going), but the particle remains unchanged (out).

Phrasal Verb + object “non separable” (To look for) (transitive)

  •  I’m looking for my keys. Will you help me to look for them?
  • The main verb is changed in accordance with the tense(am looking), but the particle remains unchanged (for).
  • The object or object pronoun comes after the preposition.

Phrasal Verb + object “separable” (To look up) (transitive)

  • I don’t have the restaurant’s phone number; I’ll have to look it up.
  • Did you look up the restaurants phone number?
  • The main verb is changed in accordance with the tense (look), but the particle remains unchanged (up).
  • We can put the object after the preposition, or between the verb and preposition. However, if you use an object pronoun (it, him, them etc.) you must place it between the verb and preposition:

I’ll have to look up it          I’ll have to look it up

Phrasal Verb + two prepositions “non separable” (To come up with) (transitive)

  • John has come up with a great solution to the problem!
  • Who came up with that idea?
  • The main verb is changed in accordance with the tense (came), but the particles remain unchanged (up with)