Phrasal verb

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A phrasal verb (also known as a multi-word verb or MWV,[1] although this is not strictly correct) is a verb comprising a verb and a particle. Mainly of Anglo-Saxon origin, they are often considered a colloquial synonym to more formal verbs of Classical origins, even though some of them actually contain Latin words, such as contract out; level off, and so on. Most phrasal verbs consist of two words, a verb and an adverb or a verb and a preposition. But just to complicate matters, there are a number of phrasal verbs which consist of three words: a verb, an adverb and a preposition.[2]


Native speakers are frequently unaware of their existence, but like idioms, phrasal verbs may present problems for foreign learners because:

  • The meaning may or may not be transparent from an examination of the individual words involved.
  • They are grammatically complex.


There are basically six types of verbs that are used as phrasal verbs:[3]

  • verbs of movement (usually monosyllabic and Anglo-Saxon in origin): go; come, run; walk; spin; shake;
  • verbs of indefinite/multiple meanings (usually monosyllabic): get; put; take; make; do;
  • verbs for inviting and ordering: invite; let;
  • verbs formed from adjectives: dry; brighten, flatten;
  • verbs formed from nouns: chalk up; brick up;
  • verbs of Latin origin: contract out; level off;

See also[edit]


  1. Teaching English: Multi-word verbs - MWVs British Council/BBC.
  2. Prepositional and phrasal verbs BBC
  3. Collins Dictionary of English Phrasal Verbs and their Idioms ISBN 0-00-370200-6