What do we mean by 'phrasal verbs'?

‘Phrasal verbs’ are obviously the most difficult part of the English vocabulary for the foreigners.
In my interview with Richard from Great Britain we discuss this topic.
Richard presented some interesting examples with phrasal verbs and gave some recommendation how to learn them.
That’s why I believe that this interview ‘What do we mean by phrasal verbs?’ can be interesting for all English learners.
Here is the link:


Good Job. :smiley:

Thanks a lot!

“Phrasal verbs are mainly used in spoken English and informal texts. (The more formal a conversation or text, the less phrasal verbs are found.)”

I am not willing to use phrasal verbs. They are too complicated. I prefer “postpone” to “put off”.

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Yes, they are perhaps the most difficult in the Engluish vocabulary.
And they can be a bit differnt with the meaning and the use in different English speaking countries. I mean the US, Great Brityain, Australia, Canada etc.

You may choose not to use phrasal verbs when you have a unitary alternative available. But you need to be able to understand them when others use them. And you probably will need to be able to use them yourself if you want to sound natural in casual speech.

Being a native English speaker, I have no problem with them, but my guess is that phrasal verbs cause even more difficulty when the preposition is separated from the verb. “That was put off” might be easier to parse than “We need to put that off”. In both cases, of course, you need to understand “put off”.

There is an artificial rule for composing English sentences which states that a sentence should never end in a preposition. The rule is widely ignored, especially in informal speech and often in writing – don’t worry about it. The preposition for phrasal verbs often comes at the end of the sentence or phrase.

A humorous quote, often mistakenly attributed to Winston Churchill, twists a sentence to avoid putting the preposition at the end. It is in response to criticism for breaking the “rule”. One form of the quote is:

“Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I shall not put!”

That is extremely stilted. It would be much more natural to say, “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something I shall not put up with.”, but that would break the “rule”.

More information about the origin of that quote is at Language Log: A misattribution no longer to be put up with


Interesting content. I like this phrasal verbs in English. Yes, I think it is an interesting contrast between on the one hand this phrasal verbs and other colloquial speech and on the other hand all the academic words in English. We don’t have this phenomena in German and less in French. But maybe it makes the English language a bit more difficult to learn because there are more words than in most of the other European languages. Sometimes it seams to me as if I am learning two different languages because of this mix of French/Latin and Germanic origin of English vocabulary.

Those prepositions that we English speakers use with verbs can make a big difference. Take for example “give” and “give up”. Big difference. On the other hand there is very little difference between “give up” and “give in”. And the difference between “give” and “give away” is real but fairly subtle. (I think the average English speaker would struggle to explain it) English speakers are hardly conscious of this most of the time.

On a related topic. Are English phrasal verbs similar to Russian prefixed verbs. It seems to me that the difference between “дать” and “отдать” is somewhat similar to the difference between “give” and “give away”.

Yes, you are right.
English uses the prepositions to make verbs with different meanings and Russian uses the prefixes for the same purpose, for example with “дать”: сдать(ся), отдать(ся), передать, поддать, выдать, придать, предать, продать, обдать.

Many thanks!

“Ending a sentence with a preposition is something with which I shall not put up!”
In this case, the last word “up” does not seem to be a preposition, and the “rule” is not broken. Isn’t this more natural?

I am not sure if the word “up” in the phrase “put up with” is an adverb.

Oh, but “up” is indeed a preposition. “Put up with” is one of those evil examples of a phrasal verb that takes two preposition.

Your example does sound less preposterous. The “with which” construct makes it seem still a bit formal. But it also sounds somewhat disjointed – I’m not sure that separating “up” and “with” is good.

To my ears, the most natural sounding way of stating this, which breaks the rule it is intended to support, may be “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something that I will not put up with.”

[Edit] I won’t argue if some grammarian wants to call “up” an adverb in this usage. But that is not how I understand it.

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Specifically in Dutch, phrasal verbs are those verbs which are formed by a preposition, also known as a particle, plus a root verb to form a compound verb that has a different meaning from the root verb but which also break apart depending on usage. When the compound verb breaks apart, it breaks very far apart: the subject and root verb at the front of the sentence and the preposition at the end.

For example: uitgeven

The preposition ‘uit’ has the basic meaning ‘out’ and the root verb ‘geven’ has the basic meaning ‘to give’ whereas ‘uitgeven’ has very specific meanings:

  1. to spend
    De gemeente Noordoostpolder geeft de komende jaren aan het onderhoud van wegen, fiets- en voetpaden gemiddeld zo’n 2 miljoen euro uit.

In the coming years the municipality of Noordoostpolder will spend on average about 2 million euros on the maintenance of roads, bike paths and walkways.

  1. to publish
    Wil je jouw boek zelf uitgeven of zoek je een uitgeverij?

Do you want “to publish” your book yourself or are you looking for a publisher?

As you can see, the apparent meaning of “uitgeven” is “to give out” but it actually has the specific meaning “to spend” or “to publish.”

I read somewhere that ‘up’ is a particle in this context, but I’m not sure that’s right. It all sounds suspiciously like two prepositions to me - evil indeed. I agree that the delightfully self-contradictory “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something that I will not put up with” is as good as this one is likely to get.

The story is that an editor had rearranged one of Churchill’s sentences in such a way as to avoid ending it in a preposition, and Churchill wrote as a reply: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

Whether Churchill actually wrote or said anything like this is highly in dispute, since many people have claimed to know the “original” saying but no one seems to be able to cite an authoritative source.

Wordings such as “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put!” are intended to be witty and grab your attention.

The very witty Christopher Hitchens was very fond of this witticism, but even he fumbled it once in response to a question about why he can’t keep his atheism to himself, saying, “Because the religious won’t allow me to, 'cause every time I open the paper there’s another instance of theocratic encroachment on free society which I won’t put up with — up with which I will not put, if that’s clear.” I heard him say it in a debate once, without fumbling, and it really stood out, but I can’t seem to locate that video clip now.

For me it doesn’t matter how we can name this part placed after the verb - a preposition, an adverb or a particle.
I take such phrasal verbs like a unity which we can’t divide without the loss of the meaning.
Someone wrote above that it’s impossible to place two prepositions one after another, why not?.. ‘out of’ for example: ‘I take my books out of my bag.’

This thread confused me because it contradicted some of my understanding on the subject.
I would like to state my opinion and have it corrected or confirmed if someone knowledgeable is kind enough to do it.

  1. A preposition is by definition always used with a (pro)noun or a noun phrase, with one-to-one relationship to it.

  2. In English, “particle” is a loose umbrella term used for convenience. There is no English word that is just a “particle”.

  3. “up” in “put up with” is an adverb, not a preposition. It may be called a particle but that is like calling it a “word”.

I believe in all phrasal verbs, anything that is not a verb or preposition is an adverb. And it is easy to distinguish between an adverb and a preposition - just check whether or not a (pro)noun can follow it immediately. In “put up with”, it is a little less clear because “put up” never seems to be used by itself in the same sense. But if we consider “crack down on”, we see that “crack down” is often used by itself without the “on” part and without any noun following it. So “down” can only be an adverb, just as it is in “I’ll come down”. Only when there is a noun following it (“I’m coming down the stairs”), it is a preposition (the noun may not be immediately after it sometimes). I think this is a clear cut rule with no exception at all.

Such grammatical labeling may not be all that important, but I’d rather have a clear understanding than be confused all the time.

Now I wait for other opinions on this.

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It seems that “other opinions on this” will come later on.

Haha, yes. I am in no hurry anyway.

And I know Troisroyaumes posted a comment yesterday but it seems to have disappeared (server glitch?).
I normally don’t see things that are not there, so it can’t be just my imagination :slight_smile:

It talked about statements from a grammar book calling “up” a particle in one passage, and an “adverbial particle” in another, with some examples. I am doing a bit of research on my own too, so I’ll probably post what I find later.