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Learn 10 Separable Phrasal Verbs

Welcome back to Everyday Grammar from VOA Learning English.

Today we return to a very common verb form in English phrasal
verbs. You will find one phrasal verb in every 192 words of written
English. They will make your English sound more natural once you begin
using them correctly. In an earlier program, we explained how and why
English speakers use them.

Today we look at some often-used phrasal verbs. This type of phrasal
verb allows a direct object to come between the verb and the preposition
or adverb. As you will hear, there is a special rule that learners
should know about when using these 10 phrasal verbs.

The structure of phrasal verbs

As you know, a phrasal verb is a phrase with two or more words: a verb and a preposition or adverb or both. We call the preposition or adverb a particle when it combines with a verb. Here are two examples:

"Please put the lamp on the desk."

"I think you're putting me on."

In the first sentence, on is a preposition showing the position of the lamp. In the second sentence, on is an adverbial particle. Put on is a phrasal verb meaning "fool" or "trick" in this sentence.

An important point is that a regular verb+preposition combination has two meanings. A phrasal verb, that is, a verb+particle, has a single
meaning within a sentence. Many phrasal verbs have a number of
different meanings in different situations. Yet the meaning of the
verb+particle can usually be expressed with a single Latin-based verb.

Here are two sentences with the same meaning:

"They tore down the old building."

"They demolished the old building."

The verb tear has its own meaning, and so does the preposition down. They can combine with other words when they are alone. But as a phrasal verb, tear down, they have one meaning: "destroy."

In 1987, U.S. President Ronald Reagan visited West Germany. He told a
crowd in the divided city of Berlin, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this

Separable phrasal verbs

Now for the tricky part. You know that some verbs are transitive,
which means they have a direct object. When such verbs appear as
phrasal verbs, an object can either separate the phrase or follow it.
Heres an example.

"I decided to throw out my old jeans."

"I decided to throw my old jeans out."

Both of these sentences are correct. The object of the phrasal verb throw out is jeans. You can use a pronoun instead of jeans and ask,

"Are you sure you want to throw them out?"

However, you cannot ask, "Are you sure you want to throw out them?" Here, the pronoun them must appear between the verb and the particle.

Finding the frequent phrasal verbs

In recent years, language experts began to use computers to examine a large collection, or corpus,
of written and spoken language. When researchers look for phrasal
verbs, they find that many deal with an activity. They also find a few
verbs combine with many particles. Among the most common verbs are come, put, get, go, pick, sit and take. These combine with the adverb particles up, out, in, on, off, and down to make up a group of very useful phrasal verbs.

Now, lets look at transitive phrasal verbs. See the list at the end of the article. The verb get is part of many phrasal verbs. For example, we use get up to mean "to wake oneself up" or "to awaken someone." For example:

"My son loves to sleep late. I got him up on time to catch the bus this morning."

Remember, the pronoun has to come between the verb and the adverb, so we cannot say, "I got up him."

Notice how the Norwegian group A-ha uses a separable phrasal verb two
ways in their song, "Take On Me." Which one is correct in formal

I'll be coming for your love, OK?

Take on me, (take on me)

Take me on, (take on me)

I'll be gone

In a day or two

Remember, singers and poets have the right to use language as they please.

For Learning English Everyday Grammar, Im Jill Robbins. And Im John Russell.

Now its your turn. Write a sentence that uses a separable phrasal verb and we will give you feedback in the Comments Section.



Words in This Story

transitive - grammar, of a verb. having or taking a direct object

adverb grammar. a word that describes a
verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a sentence and that is often used
to show time, manner, place, or degree

preposition grammar. a word or group of
words that is used with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show
direction, location, or time, or to introduce an object

object - grammar. a noun, noun phrase, or pronoun that receives the action of a verb or completes the meaning of a preposition

corpus n. a collection of writings, conversations, speeches, etc., that people use to study and describe a language

Heres our list of 10 useful phrasal verbs:

Phrasal Verb



put on

wear, produce, fool, pretend

That cannot be true. You must be putting me on.

put off

postpone, disturb

The report is due today. Stop putting it off and turn it in.

put down

criticize, write

Her boss was always putting her down so she resigned.

give up

surrender, stop trying

Your singing is beautiful dont give it up.

give away

give, offer

That radio station gives turkeys away for Thanksgiving.

give back

return, restore

I got so much help from the town, I want to give something back.

get off

leave, finish, send

Please get the letter off to them today.

get up

awaken, rise

Mom had to get us up every day for school.

pick up

collect, lift, learn, bring, clean

I picked the living room up before our guests arrived.

take on

assume, fight

The union took on the huge oil company.

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