1. Phrasal verbs vs. prepositional verbs

Phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs may look similar, but they do not act the same.

Phrasal verbs are verbs that contain multiple words.
They have their own special meaning.

Prepositional verbs are verbs that add a preposition to tell what direction the verb is done.
The meaning is the same as the original verb, but with an added direction.

2. What is a phrasal verb?

Phrasal verbs are verbs that contain two or more words.

The first word is a verb, and the second is an adverb. The adverb changes the verb.
This means phrasal verbs have their own special meaning.

Original verbPhrasal verbMeaningExample sentence
putput awayto tidy out of sightHe put away the toys into the box.
bringbring upto raise an ideaHillary brought up the price rise at the meeting.
blowblow upto explodeThe car blew up a little after 2am.
pickpick upto collect a person from a placeI need to pick up the children from school at 3 o’clock.
beatbeat upto physically assaultPhillip beat up Dave because Dave ate Phillip’s pudding.
taketake apartto deconstruct, making into small piecesCandy took apart the phone but now cannot put it together again.
callcall offto cancel an eventThe game was called off because of snow.
carecare forto look after someone who is ill or infirmIt is very kind of you to care for your grandmother.

3. What is a prepositional verb?

Prepositional verbs are also verbs that contain two or more words.

However, in a prepositional verb the second word does not change the verb meaning.
It is a preposition which says where the verb goes.

VerbPrepositional verbMeaningExample sentence
believebelieve into put belief into an objectDo you believe in God?
getget onto get into a vehicle, or stand on top of somethingThey got on the train at Crewe.
take caretake care ofto care for someone or something She takes care of her sick husband.
looklook forto look in a search for something missingThey are looking for their lost dog.
workwork forto work in the employment of a company or personI work for a terrible company.
apologiseapologise forto apologise for a specific reasonI apologise for my husband’s behaviour.
sympathisesympathise withto have sympathy for someone or somethingShe sympathises with him, but still has to fire him.

4. Splitting verbs

Phrasal verbs can be split.
This means the object can be put inside the phrasal verbs.

Phrasal verbObjectExample of object inside phrasal verb
put awaythe toysDaisy put the toys away in their box.
blow upthe carThe gang blew the car up at 2am.
beat upDavePhillip beat Dave up again, this time because Dave ate Phillip’s cookies.
turn onthe televisionCould you turn the television on?
turn downthe job offerI think you were right to turn the job offer down.

If using an object pronoun (me, you, him, her, it, us, them), a phrasal verb must be split.

Phrasal verb sentence with object
(not split)
Phrasal verb sentence with object
Phrasal verb sentence with object pronoun
Jess typed up her notes.Jess typed her notes up.Jess typed them up.
Archibald bought up the restaurant.Archibald bought the restaurant up.Archibald bought it up.
Sean will clean up the mess.Sean will clean the mess up.Sean will clean it up.
You have taken over the project.You have taken the project over.You have taken it over.

Prepositional verbs cannot be split.

5. Exercises

Which of these are phrasal verbs, and which are prepositional verbs?
(i) give up
(ii) push against
(iii) turn off
(iv) write down
(v) read along