English Grammar: multi-word verbs

English Grammar: Multi-word verbs

English Grammar: Multi-word verbs. English learners hate PHRASAL VERBS but English speakers love them! So, there is no avoiding them. This post takes a look at how to use multi-word verbs, which include four types.

Multi-word verbs

Multi-word verbs are verbs that are followed by particles and/or prepositions. Although they are commonly all referred to as phrasal verbs, it is important to know the difference so as to know how to use them.


  • Transitive Phrasal Verbs are the only type of multi-word verbs that can be separated as seen on the left.
  • Throw away
    • Throw is the verb
    • away is the particle
  • They need to be followed by an object.
    • I pick up my son at 4 o’clock.
    • I picked my son up at 4 o-clock.


  • When the object of the transitive phrasal verb is a pronoun, the particle MUST come after the object.
    • I picked him up already.
    • I looked it up on the internet.
  • The verb and particle are not usually separated when the object of the transitive verb is a long noun phrase.
    • She needs to pick up his favorite chocolate cake from the store.
    • I have to look up some important dates for history class.
  • We do not usually separate the verb and participle when the transitive phrasal verb is part of a relative clause.
    • We can wrap the present with the paper I picked up today.
    • The money I paid back was for the school trip.
  • When the verb is modified by an adverb, it can come either at the end of the clause or before the verb
    • He paid his mortgage off immediately.
    • He immediately paid off his mortgage.


  • Intransitive Phrasal Verbs consist of a verb and a particle
  • Broke down
    • broke is the verb
    • down is the particle
  • They CANNOT be separated.
    • The plane will take off on time.
    • They are always eating out.


Some phrasal verbs have more than one meaning. Some may be transitive and others intransitive

  • TAKE OFF is intransitive when it means to leave.
    • The plane will take off on time.
    • What time are you planning on taking off?
  • TAKE OFF is transitive when it means to remove.
    • You can take your jacket off once we are on the plane.
    • Don’t take the sticker off.
  • PASS OUT is intransitive when it means to lose consciousness
    • Julie passed out at lunch this afternoon.
    • It is kind of scary when someone passes out.
  • PASS OUT is transitive when it means to give something to someone
    • The teacher always passes the exams out as soon as we get there.
    • Can you help me pass these pamphlets out after work today?


  • Prepositional Verbs are always followed by a preposition
  • go over
    • go is the verb
    • over is the preposition
  • They are transitive so they need to be followed by an object
  • Unlike transitive verbs, You CANNOT separate them.
    • Someone broke into the bank!
    • How are you dealing with this loss?


  • Some examples of prepositions are:
    • into
    • with
    • on
    • over
    • of
    • after
  • When a prepositional verb is modified by an adverb, it must go (1) at the end of the sentence or (2) before the preposition. It cannot go after the preposition.
    • 1. He’s coping with the loss of his mother really well.
    • 2. He’s coping really well with the loss of his mother.
    • He’s coping with really well the loss of his mother.


  • Phrasal-Prepositional Verbs are followed by a particle and then a preposition.
  • Came up with
    • came is the verb
    • up is the particle
    • with is the preposition
  • The particle and the preposition must always stay together


Other examples of Prepositional-Phrasal Verbs:

  • do away with
    • Emma did away with all the old toys she used to play with.
  • get away with
    • She’s always getting away with everything because she’s the youngest.
  • look down on
    • I think it is ridiculous to look down on someone for having an accent.

English Grammar

Now that you have learned all about English Grammar: Multi-word verbs, take a look at more of our Grammar related posts:
Grammar: Reflexive Pronouns
Grammar video: Adverbs of frequency in less than 5 minutes