An ELT Glossary : Multiword verbs

Multiword verbs are, as the name suggests, verbs made up of more than one word. The term covers :

a) Phrasal Verbs - ie a verb plus an adverb : 

Some phrasal verbs are intransitive : The plane took off. / He didn't turn up until 11 o'clock.

Others are transitive - eg bring up. When they are transitive, they are also separable, ie:

  • the object may come after the full phrasal verb - He brought up the subject at the meeting  
  • Or it may come between the verb and the adverb - He brought the subject up at the meeting
  • When the object is a pronoun, only the second option is possible: He brought it up at the meeting.
Many phrasal verbs have more than one meaning, and/or may be both intransitive or transitive with different meanings. For example :

He didn't turn up (intransitive. Meaning = arrive)
Can you turn the heating up? (transitive. Meaning = increase the level)

b) Prepositional verbs - ie a verb plus a preposition : She looked into the problem / He takes after his father

c) Phrasal prepositional verbs - ie a verb plus an adverb plus a preposition : We ran out of petrol / I want to cut down on calories

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