Friday, April 19, 2013

Phrasal verbs that are always separated

There are a few phrasal verbs that take an object where that object must go between the verb and the particle, and not after the particle. The idea of this post is to try and list all of these, or at least as many as I know about.
I've taken the verbs from various sources, but mainly from English Phrasal Verbs in Use, published by Cambridge University Press. There are some verbs where not everybody agrees that they must be separated; these I've marked with ???. For example, English Phrasal Verbs in Use has ask out sb or ask sb out, where some websites have it as only being separated.
Clicking on most verbs will take you to a definition at the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary
If you know of any I've missed, please let me know in the comments.

Types of phrasal verb

A quick reminder of the different types of phrasal verb (or multi-word or multi-part verbs, as they are referred to in some books).
Phrasal verbs
(the good old-fashioned system)
CharacteristicsMulti-word / Multi-part verbs
(the trendy new system)
Type 1 phrasal verbintransitive
verb + adverb
no object
Only two people turned up.
Phrasal verbs
Type 2 phrasal verbtransitive separable
verb + adverb/preposition
takes an object before or after the particle
She put away her things / She put her things away
Type 3 phrasal verbtransitive non-separable
verb + preposition
takes an object after the particle
Who is looking after the children?
Prepositional verbs
Type 4 phrasal verbtwo or more particles
verb + adverb + preposition
takes an object after the second particle
He really lives up to his reputation
Phrasal-prepositional verbs

A couple of points about Type 2 phrasal verbs - transitive separable

Pronouns - when the object is a pronoun, it must go between the verb and the particle.
  • Put on your coat / Put your coat on
  • Put it on
Prepositions - when the phrasal verb is followed by a preposition with its own object, the first object usually comes before the particle. The same thing happens with a very few Type 4 verbs.
  • I'd better take back that book I borrowed.
  • I'm taking that book I borrowed back to the library.
  • Help your aunt off with her coat
Particles - the particle acts as an adverb when the object comes before the particle, and as a preposition when the object comes after the particle:
  • Could you turn the lights off - verb + object + adverb
  • Could you turn off the lights - verb + preposition + object

Type 2 phrasal verbs - to separate or not to separate (when there is an option)

We often prefer to put longer phrases to the end of the sentence, and this seems to be happening with the objects here. To me the first of the following two sentences sounds better than the second.
  • I'd better take back that book I borrowed.
  • I'd better take that book I borrowed back.
On the other hand, when the object is short, I think it sounds better between the verb and the particle, as in the first of these two options.
  • I'd better take that book back.
  • I'd better take back that book.
This is only my hunch, and the difference is very small.

Patterns for verbs that are always separated

Phrasal verbs that are always separated follow one of three patterns:
  • Type 2 - verb + object + adverb
    have sb round
  • Type 2 - verb + object + preposition + object
    put sth to sb
  • Type 4 - verb + object + adverb + preposition + object
    help sb on with sth

Pattern 3 - verb + object + adverb + preposition + object

help sb off with sth
help sb on with sth
make it up to sb
pass sth off as sth
put sb up to sth

Usually, but not always, separated

ask sb out ???
let sb down ???
put sb through ???

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