Transitive and Intransitive Phrasal Verbs
As a student of English, some of the things you need to learn are phrasal verbs. And when you learn them, it’s very helpful to know if they are transitive or intransitive. What do these words mean? Read on to find out more.
Reminder – What is a phrasal verb?
A phrasal verb is a verb that consists of two or three words. These words are usually a verb plus an adverb and/or a preposition. For example,
To find out = to discover
The tricky thing about phrasal verbs is that their meanings are often quite different to the original meaning of the verb.
To take over = to gain control of something (e.g. a company)
Transitive and Intransitive
All verbs can either be transitive or intransitive. When a verb is transitive it means it has an object. For example,
Throw a ball.
When a verb is intransitive, it doesn’t need an object. For example,
Walk to school.
Arrive on time.
Go to the cinema.
Transitive Phrasal Verbs
The same meaning of transitive and intransitive applies to phrasal verbs in the same way as it does to normal verbs. A transitive phrasal verb takes an object, for example:
Hang up your jacket.
When a phrasal verb is transitive, it’s possible to put the object between the verb and the adverb/preposition, or put it afterwards. There is no difference in meaning. For example,
Take off your jacket. OR Take your jacket off.
However, when we use a pronoun, it must go in the middle. For example,
Take it off. (Not Take off it.)
Here are some other examples of transitive phrasal verbs:
Before you use the computer you need to turn it on.
She looked at the magazine then put it down.
There are lots of dead leaves in the garden. We need to clear them up.
Make sure you fill in your landing card.
What a pretty dress! Why don’t you try it on?
If we’re going to have fish for dinner, you’d better take it out of the freezer.
That old building looks awful. They should knock it down.
If you’ve got a good idea, bring it up at the meeting.
Jill phoned. She wants you to call her back.
Intransitive Phrasal Verbs
Intransitive phrasal verbs are easier to use because there is no object to worry about. Here are some examples of intransitive phrasal verbs:
The plane took off and landed on time. (left the ground)
Where did you grow up? – In a small town just outside this city. (live your childhood)
This car is terrible. It breaks down all the time! (stops working)
You’re doing really well, so carry on like this. (continue)
He started a university course but dropped out after one year. (left/stop participating)
My colleague and I get on really well. (have a good relationship)
Pete and Sue had an argument but they’ve made up now. (reconcile)
Did you get the tickets? No, they’d sold out. (sell all those available)
Now you know more about transitive and intransitive verbs, start paying attention to them when you study. When you meet a new phrasal verb, make a note of whether it’s transitive or intransitive so you know if you can separate the verb or not. And make your own examples too to help you remember them more easily.
Start practicing now by doing a fun quiz.