What are phrasal verbs? They are verbs followed by another word. They make a phrase and therefore are called phrasal verbs. This way of writing creates a meaning different from the original verb.

My little daughter, Laura, had a problem with this kind of verb when she said, “I’m throwing up.” To say that she was throwing a ball in the air. Her mistake was with the verb “to throw up

The following are a FEW examples of these verbs in English. They are very common and as you learn them, you will speak and write in a more natural way.


I ran into Mary in church last night.The phrasal verb “run into” does not have the meaning of the word “run” but rather means “meet”.

The airplane took off. The verb “take-off” does not have the meaning of the word “take” but rather means “leave the ground, become airborne”.

The man took off his hat. The verb “take-off” does not have the meaning of the word “take” but rather means “remove, strip, doff”.

You can see that some phrasal verbs do not take an object. They are intransitive. An intransitive verb cannot be followed by an object.

A Few More Examples:

But sometimes, as in the case of the verb “grow explained in the article on transitive verbs in this series, the same verb can be transitive.

As in the case of Laura, there is a different meaning between the transitive and intransitive phrasal verb. For example, look at the use of the verb that includes the phrase “show up”.

Peter suddenly showed up.“show up” means “arrive” or “appear” is intransitive and does not take an object. However, “show up” can be a transitive verb and can be followed by an object.

John showed Frank up in the competition. In this case “to show up” means “to better”, “to expose”, “to make a fool of”.

Separable:: Some transitive phrasal verbs can be separated. The object is placed between the verb and the preposition. The two parts of the verb can be used in different parts of the sentence.


He looked the number up in the directory. Sam looked up the number in the directory.

John showed Pedro up in the 50-yard dash. Ahmed showed up Xiang in the 440-yard race.

This is a very idiomatic ability that you will learn little by little, not by studying examples such as these in print, but rather by listening, repeating, and writing.

Some are inseparable. The object is always placed after the preposition.


I ran into an old friend yesterday.

It cannot be: I ran an old friend into yesterday.

They are looking into the problem.

It cannot be: They are looking the problem into.

WARNING! Although many of these verbs can take an object in both places, if the object is a pronoun, you must put the object between the verb and the preposition.


He showed her up in the debate.

It cannot be: He showed up here in the debate.

I looked it up in the phone book.

It cannot be: I looked up it in the phone book.

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