Phrasal verbs – introduction

Phrasal verbs


A phrasal verb is formed with:

  1. a verb + a preposition*  or
  2. a verb + an adverbial particle*

*for 99% of people it is not important to know the difference. We will refer to both types simply as “phrasal verbs”

Some combinations have a logical meaning:

  • The boy got on the train – When the train stopped the boy got on (entered) the train

But in other cases and situations phrasal verbs are used idiomatically, there is no logical meaning to them:


  • When I was at school I got on very well with the teachers – Here “got on” (past of get on) means “have a good relationship with the teachers” 

Phrasal verbs are a daily part of the English language and they can be a problem for non-native speakers of English to use correctly. Each phrasal verb is formed according to its tense using the same grammar we use for any verb

I strongly recommend that you try to understand phrasal verbs in their context but be very, very careful if you try to use them when you speak or write. It is very easy to make a mistake! The same phrasal verbs can have different meanings in different situations: 

  • How did you get on in the exam? = how did you find the exam, could you answer the questions?
  • There were getting on for 100 people at the party. = There were approximately 100 people.
  • Mrs Parker was my teacher 40 years ago, she’s getting on now. = she’s starting to get old

Here you can find a more extensive explanation of the Grammar of phrasal verbs Type 1 and Type 2

 grammar of English phrasal verbs – type 3 and 4 

Go to Phrasal verb Index

 Go to English grammar lessons

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