flesl.net grammar glossary::phrasal-prepositional verb

phrasal-prepositional verbs

• Phrasal-prepositional verbs are a third major type of multi-word verbs. They combine the characteristics of the two most important types, phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs. In such verbs a verb word (or “lexical verb” is followed first by an adverbial particle, then by a prepositional particle and a noun phrase or clause. Here are some examples:

look forward to:

put up with:

get away with:

do away with:

look down on:

let in on:

put up to:

take out on:

Harry is looking forward to having lunch with Jane.

Sarah sometimes feels she can’t put up with Harry’s behaviour any longer.

Tom said, “Rich people like Harry think they can get away with anything.”.

Most of Harry’s friends feel that corporate income tax should be done away with.

Jane’s mother had tried to teach her never to look down on poor or ignorant people.

Harry grinned and told Dick he was going to let him in on a little secret.

Harry accused Dick of having put Jane up to writing the letter.

When Harry has a hangover, he takes it out on whoever happens to be around.

• Of the eight examples of phrasal prepositional verbs given above the first five are transitive: they all have one (prepositional) object. The last three, however, are ditransitive: they all have two objects, one direct and the other prepositional. Notice that in the case of the final three, the phrasal element is emphasized by the fact that, as is typical of phrasal verbs, the direct object is placed between the verb and the adverbial particle. There seems, though, to be no option with verbs of this type of placing a noun phrase after the particle. (For example: Jane put up her next-door neighbour up to writing the letter).

• All of the examples given above are strongly idiomatic, and with the exception of look forward to, all are distinctly informal. They are all also in frequent use and would undoubtedly be familiar even to illiterate native speakers. It should be noted, moreover, that despite the fact that idiomatic multi-word verbs so often have single-words substitutes, satisfactory alternatives exist for only two of the examples, put up with and do away with. (tolerate and eliminate) For some comments on the meaning of the example verbs, see the Notes & References page.