Grammar: Groups & phrases: Verb group: Structure of the verb group

Phrasal verbs Back

Transitive and intransitive phrasal verbs

Some phrasal verbs are 'transitive' Glossary, which means that there are two Participants (P1 and P2) involved:

 You must hand in your homework.       
   P1                                        P2

Some phrasal verbs are 'intransitive' Glossary, which means that there is only Participant (P1) involved:

Why are they all lying down?

The distinction between transitive and intransitive verbs often coincides with a distinction between adverb and preposition:

Ricky turned   up   unexpectedly. ['arrived']

Bozo turned     up     the heat on his competitors. ['increased pressure'] 

A phrasal verb comprising verb + adverb generally has only one Participant: 

Ricky turned up unexpectedly.

On the other hand, a phrasal verb comprising verb + preposition generally has two Participants:

Bozo turned up the heat on his competitors
                           P1                           P2

Note that there are exceptions to both of these generalisations.

Here are some examples of transitive phrasal verbs, shown with the pronoun following the first word:

Transitive phrasal verbs

bring it back call them up cross it off dig it up
dream it up eat it up fill it up give it away
give it up hand it in hand it over hold it down
hold it up knock it over leave it out lift it up
mess it up mix it up pass it around pin it up
pay it back put it away read it out switch it off
switch it on throw it away throw it out tidy it away
tidy it up try it on try it out turn it off
turn it on wash it out wipe it off wipe it out

Note that when the second Participant is a small noun group, we usually have the option of placing it after the phrasal verb or after the first word of the phrasal verb: 

You must bring back some sleep.        
   P1                                              P2

You must bring some sleep back.        
   P1                                   P2

However, if the second Participant is expressed by a pronoun, the pronoun almost always comes between the verb and the particle: 

You must bring  it  back.  

Here are some examples of intransitive phrasal verbs: 

Intransitive phrasal verbs

come away come back come in come out
end up fall apart fall over fool around
get up go ahead go away go back
go on go out grow up hold on
join in lie down look back meet up
move over own up roll over run around
run away run out sit down stand up
walk out watch out    

Alternative terms

PrimeGram Other grammars
noun group noun phrase

Note that the term Participant is written with a capital to remind us that it is a functional term.

Tell me more ...

What are phrasal verbs?
Verb + adverb
Verb + preposition
Verb + adverb + preposition
Transitive and intransitive phrasal verbs


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