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2000+ Phrasal Verbs List from A-Z (to Sound Like A Native!)


The English language has a funny way of complicating even the most simple of things, and unfortunately for you, phrasal verbs are an example of this. Like most things in English, you probably already use them on a regular basis without even realizing it. But, it’s helpful to understand what exactly phrasal verbs are officially, so you can learn the different types and start to use them in your own writing. So, let’s take a look at the definition of phrasal verbs, the different types that exist, and try to explain why learning the different types will benefit you in the long run.

What Is A Phrasal Verb?

Simply put, a phrasal verb is the combination of a verb with another word or two from a different grammatical category. It could be an adverb, a preposition, or in some cases even both.

The idea is that the words from the other grammatical categories enhance the verb in some way by adding some more information. The idea is that the phrasal verb takes the place of a single verb to describe a similar idea, by simply adding more information for the reader or listener. Remember, a verb’s meaning is simple enough to remember if you just remind yourself that all verbs are ‘doing words’ i.e. they show action in some way. We’ll take a look at the different types of phrasal verbs below so you can understand this idea better.

Some examples of phrasal verbs with the verb “GET” are “get at”, “get in”, “get out”, “get off”, “get away”, “get over”, “get back”… and they ALL have different meanings!

Each phrasal verb can also have multiple definitions. For example, GET OUT can mean:

  1. Leave or escape
  2. Become known (“Somehow the secret got out“)
  3. Say something with difficulty (“He could hardly get the words out for the tears”)
  4. Clean something (“This detergent will get most household stains out“)
  5. Spend free time out of the house (“You work too hard. You should get out more”)

Phrasal verbs are used more frequently in everyday speech than in formal writing/ speaking. They are used often in everyday conversation by native speakers of English.

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Phrasal Verbs

Types of Phrasal Verbs

Intransitive Phrasal Verbs

These types of phrasal verbs refer to phrasal verbs that are not directly related to an object, and the preposition must always follow the verb directly. That means that they are used as phrasal verbs in a more general sense and are not used to answer the what or the who of the sentence. We told you the English language is sometimes unnecessarily complicated didn’t we… These phrasal verbs are best understood with examples, so you can see how the words are not related to anything in particular.

  • To tell somebody that your car ‘broke down’ is an example of an intransitive phrasal verb because there isn’t a direct object within the sentence. Direct objects should answer the question who or what. To say “my car broke down” doesn’t answer either of those questions because nothing follows it, so it is an intransitive phrasal verb. You know that ‘broke down’ is a phrasal verb because ‘broke’ is the verb, and ‘down’ is the preposition, but the phrasal verb could just as easily be replaced with the verb ‘malfunctioned’.

Nonseparable Transitive

Nonseparable transitive phrasal verbs simply refer to phrasal verbs that do relate to a direct object, so the phrase in some way answers the who or the what of the phrasal verb. The Nonseparable part will become more clear later as we look at examples where the verb and the preposition in the phrase can be separated, but just remember in this case the verb and preposition cannot be separated because it wouldn’t make sense to do so. Here is an example.

  • She came across the pen she had been looking for behind the desk. In this case ‘came across’ is the phrasal verb, but you know that it is an example of a nonseparable transitive phrasal verb, because it is answering the question who or what. She ‘came across’ the pen she had been looking for. The pen she had been looking for is the direct object and it is what the character ‘came across’ (or ‘found’ if you were to replace it with a verb). The nonseparable part comes in when you realize that moving the preposition ‘across’ to anywhere other than right next to the verb ‘came’ just wouldn’t make sense. You can try it for yourself now. Try saying the sentence above with ‘across’ in different places, you’ll see that it can’t be done. So, it’s a nonseparable transitive phrasal verb.

Optionally Separable Transitive

We really wish that we were just making this stuff up at this point, but oh no, the English language really does have phrasal verbs where you can separate the preposition and the verb simply because you feel like it, and the sentence will still make sense. These phrasal verbs are still transitive because they relate to a direct object again, but they’re optionally separable because you can move the preposition to places other than right next to the verb and the sentence still carries the same meaning. Let’s take a look.

  • Can you hand out the homework? This sentence works as a transitive phrasal verb because they are asked to ‘hand out’ (phrasal verb made up of the verb ‘hand’ and preposition ‘out’) the homework (‘the homework’ is the direct object, because it answers the question ‘what?’ in this case). Now this is where the optionally separable part comes in, because if you felt like it, you could have said: Can you hand the homework out? It makes perfect sense still, but the verb and preposition have just been separated by the direct object in this sentence.

Obligatorily Separable

This is the final example of a phrasal verb, and these phrasal verbs must be separated in some way in order to make sense. That means that the preposition and the verb must have something between them, because together the sentence wouldn’t be understood. Here is an example.

  • looked it up online. Here ‘looked’ is the verb, ‘up’ is the preposition, and ‘online’ is the direct object that answer’s the ‘what?’ question. It is obligatorily separable, because to have the words together wouldn’t be grammatically correct. To say I looked up it online, might make sense, but it is awkward to say because grammatically it is incorrect. So, when the phrasal verb has to be separated in some way to be grammatically correct, it is an obligatorily separable verbal phrase.

Why Learn Phrasal Verbs?

If reading this guide has left you scratching your head wondering why you’d bother learning about them at all, well it’s actually really important that you do. Phrasal verbs are something that we use everyday both in our writing and our speech, so getting to grips with them is important. You don’t necessarily have to know the different types by name, but you ought to recognize the different types because you could end up making grammatical mistakes that make your writing or speech difficult to follow. Phrasal verbs are an integral part of the English language, so learning about them now can really help with your understanding of how to use certain combinations of words in the correct way.

We hope you’ve found this guide useful and are at least now aware of what phrasal verbs are and why there are different types that need to be understood.

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