Phrasal Verbs, Adverbial Verbs, Prepositional Verbs

Discussion in 'English Only' started by matar0, Sep 2, 2006.

  1. matar0 Senior Member

    Italian, Italy
    I'm told by Grammar sites that in the vast majority of cases the particle of a phrasal verb is a preposition.
    Because of most of the particles (about, across, (a)round, by, down, in ,off, on, over, through, up, under) can be used both as adverbs and as preposition , I wonder how can I understand which function they have in a definite phrasal verb. As far as I realize it should be the contrary : in most cases the particle has function of adverb.
    Is it?

    Thanks much
  2. GrandBlank Junior Member

    Sounds like you're a serious grammarian.

    I don't know all the terminology, but if I understand correctly, I may have an answer.

    I think that the easy way to determine whether the particle is an adverb or a preposition is to look for an object. If the particle in question has an object, then it is a preposition.

    down as phrasal verb:
    Go down to the basement to find the old files. (to the basement is a preposition on its own)
    Take down those posters. (posters is not the object of down but of the verb to take [down].)

    down as preposition:
    Go down the road to reach the highway. (road is the object of the preposition down.)

    Maybe others can clarify this further or better.
  3. dwipper Senior Member

    Iowa, U.S.
    U.S. English
    The problem with phrasal verbs in English is that they have become very idiomatic, and there is a grey area when trying to determine the function of the particle. Because of this, I don't think most people even try to differentiate.

    That said, if you understand the difference between in and into, you can apply the same principle to the particles of phrasal verbs. If the particle is in, try replacing it with into. If it still makes sense, the particle functions as a preposition--if not, it likely functions as an adjective. If you understand that difference, try to apply the same concept to other sentences as well.

    I hope that made at least a little sense, but honestly, I wouldn't be too concerned over determining the the function of particles in phrasal verbs is a fuzzy logic and rather idiomatic.
  4. matar0 Senior Member

    Italian, Italy
    You didn't answer my first question : Is it true that in the vast majority of the phrasal verbs (all those which appear in internet long lists) , the particle is a preposition? The example you gave me about "go down the street" is as far as I know a very limited usage: Other examples could be the ones in . In this document it is written that there is a sharp difference between phrasal and prepositional verbs : using this definition I would say that prepositional verbs are very fewer than phrasal verbs. Yet, I'm not so sure that in all which we should call phrasal verb, the particle is an adverb and not a preposition. Lists of phrasal verbs such as don't make a differencee between phrasal and prepositional verbs. As far as I studied Know, I believe that in the vast majority of the phrasal verbs the particle is an adverb, while the prepositional verbs are few. By the way can you give me or tell me where I can find a list of the prepositional verbs?
    Besides, can we use as a clue(to make this distinction) the fact that inseparable verbs are all prepositional verbs? Is it true also the vice-versa(the prepositional verbs are all inseparable verbs so are all included in them?).
    Finally, I would ask you: Do all the prepositional verbs follow the construction of ?

  5. dwipper Senior Member

    Iowa, U.S.
    U.S. English
    First, I think we need to get our terminology straight. As far as I know, there are two ways of defining phrasal verbs.

    The first (more common?) way is to lump all verbs that contain more than one word into the single category of "phrasal verbs." This is likely because, as I said before, these verbs have become very idiomatic in English and sometimes hard to define.

    The second, stricter definition has three kinds of 'phrasal' verbs. The first are true phrasal verbs, constructed in the form verb + adverb. The second are prepositional verbs of the construction verb + preposition. The third are phrasal-prepositional verbs in the form verb + adverb + preposition.

    I'm assuming you're going by the second way of defining phrasal verbs, and as such I'll try answer your questions as best I can with that in mind.

    I don't know that I would say that any of the three forms (phrasal, prepositional, or phrasal-prepositional) is necessarilly more common than another. They are all used often enough in writing and speech, that I would not be able to make that judgement.

    Right off hand, I don't have any resources, but if you search Google for "prepostional verbs," I'm sure you'll find some good lists.

    All prepositional/phrasal-prepositional verbs are inseperable. Ture phrasal verbs can be seperable or inseperable, and this is something you just have to memorize. Most separable phrasal verbs sound more natural when separated--just remember that when you separate them, the direct object is between the verb and prepostion.

    In short, most (but not all) inseparable verbs are prepositional.

    Hopefully, I answered this clearly at the beginning of the post.

    I hope this is helpful.
  6. matar0 Senior Member

    Italian, Italy
    Can you tell me any inseparable verb which is not prepositional?
    Give me a list of these: I don't think they are so much so you could write them down on your own.

    Thanks very much
  7. dwipper Senior Member

    Iowa, U.S.
    U.S. English
    It's rather difficult to think of these off the top of my head, but here are some phrasal (verb+adverb) verbs which are inseparable. One interesting thing to notice about these is that if they are separated, their meaning changes.

    take off
    The plane will take off in a couple minutes.
    I'm going to take my coat off.

    get up
    I usually get up at 7:00.
    I will try to get the website up by this afternoon.

    break down
    My car broke down yesterday.
    I need to break this cardboard box down before I can recycle it.

    get around
    I always try to get around the rules.
    I can never get the boat around that bend in the river.

    catch on
    I'm starting to catch on to this concept.
    I caught him (cheating) on his test.

    bring up
    I don't want to bring up that topic again.
    Could you bring those papers up before you leave?

    These are definitely not all the inseparable phrasal verbs but instead those which came to mind easily. Again, I don't think I could give you a complete list. I know that some dictionaries will tell you whether a verb is separable or not, so that might be your best bet.
  8. bartonig Senior Member

    UK English
    Some EFL texts give a simplified account of multi-word verbs. One might, for example, lump all such verbs together and categorise them 'phrasal verbs', and another might not promote 'adverbial particles' as a word category distinct from adverbs. My advice would be to not worry too much about the grammatical aspect but, rather, learn one by one how the common multiword verbs behave. However, if you really want to delve into the grammar the best account I have read is in chapter 5 of 'The Longman Student's Grammar of Spoken and Written English. It's quite a rigorous and informative description of these verbs and is based an analysis of a corpus of English texts and conversation rather than the whims of a grammarian.

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