Different types of phrasal verbs

When you learn new phrasal verbs, it is a good idea to check in a dictionary to see how they work. There are 4 main types:

1: No object

Some phrasal verbs have no direct object (noun) after them. You can say where, when, who with ... but not usually what!

  • I got up (at 6am)
  • We went out (to the cinema).

2: Object after the phrasal verb (inseparable)

These phrasal verbs need an object, and it comes after the phrasal verb.

  • I take after my dad.
  • I take after him.

3: Object can be in the middle of the phrasal verb (separable)

These phrasal verbs need an object. If it is a noun, it can go after the phrasal verb or in the middle of the phrasal verb (the verb separates). However an object pronoun (e.g. you, her, them) goes in the middle.

  • I picked up the book.
  • I picked the book up.
  • I picked it up.
  • I picked up it.

4: Three-word phrasal verbs

These phrasal verbs are made of a verb and two particles and always have an object. They almost never separate - the noun or pronoun should go at the end.

  • I get on with my brother.
  • She's looking forward to it.

Summary

Basically, if a phrasal verb has no object, it can't separate. If it is made of three words (verb + two particles), it can't usually separate. If it is a two-word phrasal verb, you need to learn if you can separate it, because it is necessary when you use a pronoun. So, it's a good idea to learn two-word phrasal verbs with the pronoun where possible - for example:

  • look after him
  • pick it up

Practice 1: learn the meaning

Here are some useful two-word phrasal verbs - some of them are separable, and some are inseparable. First, use these flashcards to check you understand the meaning.

Note: sth = something, sb = somebody

 

Example ↔ definition:

 


 

 
 

 

Practice 2: remember the phrasal verbs

How many phrasal verbs can you remember from the examples? Click on the question to see the answer. If it was easy, you can remove it from the set of cards, otherwise click needs more practice to save it and see the next question. Keep going until there are no questions left.

 

 


 

 

 

You'll probably remember these better in the long term if you have a break now or study something different. Come back tomorrow and repeat these, or try the next set of flashcard questions for these words below.


Practice 3: test yourself - same verbs, different examples

Now try these flashcards. Change the sentences to use a pronoun (e.g. him / it) instead of the full noun. Are they separable or inseparable?

 


 

 

Here is a summary of the separable and inseparable phrasal verbs presented above:

Separable phrasal verbs

turn it down = refuse an offer
check it out = look at sth that might be interesting
put it off = decide to do sth later
work it out = calculate, or understand sth after thinking carefully
make it up = invent a story or lie
rule it out = decide that sth is not possible or suitable
sort it out = successfully deal with a problem
pick him up = go and get sb/sth (usually in your car)


Inseparable phrasal verbs

look into it = investigate sth
come across it = find sth by chance
count on him = rely on sb
go over it = talk/think about sth again (to check it)
go off it = stop liking sth/sb
get into it = start doing and enjoying an activity
(not) stand for it = not allow or tolerate sth
take after him = resemble an older family member