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 usually 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

Related posts in the ELT Notebook and elsewhere

Prepositional Verbs or Verbs with Prepositional Phrases? What's the Difference?
Teaching Multiword Verbs (by Ben Corcoran)

Test Your Understanding...

...with this quiz (8 questions). You'll see the correct answers after you submit your own. Please note that there's a typo in question 2 which unfortunately I can no longer correct : proposition should be preposition.