Use of Separable Phrasal Verbs – List and Explanation

Separable phrasal verbs

Separable phrasal verbs, are part of a larger group referred to as transitive phrasal verbs which typically have a direct object that separates the phrasal verb. That is, the verb and adverb or preposition making the phrasal verbs are not written one after the other in a sentence but rather separated by a direct object. For example;

The builders decided to take out the billboard.

The builders decided to take the billboard out.

In the above examples both sentences are correct but in the second illustration, the phrasal verb ‘take out’ is separated by the direct object ‘billboard’.

What is a phrasal verb? (meaning)

It is important that everyone understands what phrasal verbs are and how to use them appropriately since they are particles of English grammar. A phrasal verb can be defined simply as a phrase formed from a combination of a verb and an adjective, preposition or both either before or after the verb.

The phrasal verbs typically give a different meaning from its constituent words. In addition, some phrasal verbs are formed with a verb and two prepositions for example; look forward to. It is also important to be acquainted with the meaning of each of the components that may be used to make up phrasal verbs. These include:

  • Adverb- these are parts of grammarwhich are used to describe a verb, adjective or another adverb by showing the time, place or degree and hence they are used to answer the questions; where, when and how.
  • Prepositions- grammar particles used with nouns, pronouns or noun phrases to show direction, time or to introduce an object.
  • Verbs- these are basically doing words that describe different actions.

Phrasal verbs can be either transitive verbs, as mentioned earlier, these take a direct object and are separated as in the case of separable phrasal verbs or intransitive verbs which do not take a direct object hence are inseparable. Apart from the latter mentioned types of phrasal verbs, there are also phrasal nouns which are formed by making a noun from a verb and particle complex. For example;

Standby: All institutions should install standby generators to provide electricity during power outages and electrical malfunctions.

Tips on understanding separable phrasal verbs.

Since separable phrasal verbs are unique due to the fact that they can be separated in a sentence, it is important to understand how to identify a separable phrasal verb from an inseparable phrasal verb. This could be a quite challenging task but nonetheless is achievable. Here are some simple facts that you should understand about separable phrasal verbs.

  • Just like any other phrasal verb, separable phrasal verbs are idiomatic and figurative. The words making up the phrasal verb have distinct meanings which do not have any relation to the meaning of the phrasal verb and hence it is important to understand the meaning of each phrasal verb before using it in a sentence.
  • A phrasal verb may be separable or inseparable depending on the meaning it is intended to bring out in a sentence. This can be closely attributed to the property of all other phrasal verbs, that is, a phrasal verb can have more than one meaning depending on the sentence structure where it is used. For example, the phrasal verb ‘get back from’ is inseparable when it is used to mean to return from somewhere and separable when used to mean to get something that originally belonged to you that you may have originally lent or given to someone.
  • Separable phrasal verbs are separated by a direct object, that means that when you have a direct object and a separable phrasal verb then the direct object will come in between the verb and the preposition, adverb or both in the sentence. However, the direct object does not necessarily have to come in between the words forming the phrasal verbs, you may choose to write the object at the end of the sentence. In both sentences, the phrasal verb used will still clearly give the intended meaning. For example;

The frightened boy quickly took off his clothes when he was attacked by a swarm of bees.

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The frightened boy quickly took his clothes off when he was attacked by a swarm of bees.

  • The phrasal verb must be separated when you use a pronoun such as him, he, it, them or any other pronoun in the sentence. For instance;

Correct; The team leader immediately picked it up after the whistle was blown.

Incorrect; The team leader immediately picked up it after the whistle was blown.

  • If the object you intend to use in a sentence is long, the separable phrasal verb should not be written separately. This is usually not incorrect but for the sake of the listener, it is better to write the phrasal verb as it is. For example,

Clear: The student was asked to write down the phone number of the chief guest for the inauguration ceremony held yesterday.

Confusing; The student was asked to write the phone number of the chief guest for the inauguration ceremony held yesterday.

Examples of separable phrasal verbs

Here are some examples of phrasal verbs and their meanings.

  • Turn down- decline an offer.
  • Make up- invent a story or an excuse.
  • Put on- wear something.
  • Give up- surrender.
  • Hand in- give or collect an assignment.
  • Look up- find information about something in a source such as a dictionary or online.
  • Point out- make known.
  • Put away- keep in the proper place.
  • Show off- demonstrate something of envy.
  • Tear up- rip into pieces.
  • Throw out- discard.
  • Turn out- put off light.

By going through this guide you are sure to add flavor to all your write-up from today.