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What are multi word verbs

Updated on March 26, 2013

What are multi-word verbs? As their name suggests they are verbs that are made up up more than one word. Usually this involves a verb, and a word (often a preposition) a particles (some multi-word verbs have more than one particle)/ articles can be adverbs or prepositions when used in other contexts in the English language.
Examples of particles are away, back, off, on, out

Multi-word verbs function as a unit, as if it were a single word verb. So here are some examples:

  • Put up with: I just don't know how she puts up with him.
  • Take off: After the class he just took off.

One verb can combine with different particles to produce different multi-word verbs with different meaning: for example break in , break off, break down, break away. A multi-word verb could also have more than one meaning. For example:

  • He had a nervous break down.
  • I will break down the concepts into simple forms.

No object (instransitive) multi-word verbs

As the name suggests these multi-word verbs don't take an object

  • We got up late.
  • The plane took off early.

Here are some more examples: set out, come along roll up, slow down, get in, go off, double back come down.

Direct object

  • In this case the verb would take a direct object ( but it can't be placed between the verb and the particle).
  • Example: He never asks her to look after their father.

Seperable and inseperable multword verb

Separable. These verbs require a direct object which can go between the particle and the verb.
Example: Eventually, he dropped us off somewhere (mult-word verb is drop off, object is us)

Two inseperable particles with a direct object, transitive. Example: To go through with
I just can't go through with this proposal.

Multi-word vs. Phrasal verb

Sometimes the multiword verb is also called a phrasal verb or a prepositional verbs; however, phrasal verbs have particles that are adverbs. Meanwhile, multi-word verbs that have prepositional particles are know as prepositional verbs, and those that have both propositions and adverbs as particles are known as phrasal-prepositional verbs.

To sum up

There are many thousands of multi word verbs in the English language. Learning them takes times as many of them are idiomatic and some don't follow patterns. With practice, though, they can be learned.


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  • kenneth avery profile image

    Kenneth Avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


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    Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Alabama