A phrasal verb is a verb that is made up of a main verb together with an adverb or a preposition, or both. Typically, their meaning is not obvious from the definition of the individual words themselves.
Phrasal verbs can be intransitive (i.e. they have no object). Examples:
a) I always get up at 6am.
b) Susan threw up after consuming 20 beers.
c) My son wants to be an architect when he grows up.
d) We all dressed up for the New Year's Eve party.
or transitive (i.e. they can have an object). Examples:
a) They had been going out for 3 years before he asked her to marry him.
b) They have just turned on the lights.
c) He gave up smoking last year.
d) We've put off the meeting for a week.
The verb and adverb elements which make up intransitive phrasal verbs are never separated:
✓ We broke up two years ago.
✗ We broke two years ago up.
The situation is different with transitive verbs, however. If the direct object is a noun, you can say:
✓ They picked their child up.
✓ They picked up their child.
If the object is a pronoun (such as it, him, her, we, them) , then the object always comes between the verb and the adverb:
✓ They picked her up.
✗ They picked up her.
Watch the video. Match the phrasal verbs below with each clip.
pick up / put down;
switch on / switch off;
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Former Cambridge Examiner / Classroom Language teacher, from Brisbane, with 12 years' experience in the industry.