The 2 main categories of multi-word verbs consist of a lexical verb plus a particle:
1. In phrasal verbs the particle is an adverb: drink up, find out
2. In prepositional verbs the particle is a preposition: dispose of, cope with.
3. In addition there are phrasal-prepositional verbs with verbs with 2 particles, an adverb followed by a preposition (put up with) and types of multi verbs that do not consist of lexical verbs followed simply by particles: cut short, put paid to
There is not a sharp boundary between multi- word verbs and free combinations, where the parts have distinct meanings.
Intransitive phrasal verbs:
One common type of multi- word verb is the intransitive phrasal verb consisting of a verb plus an adverb particle.
ü How are you getting on?
ü She turned up unexpectedly
ü The 2 girls have fallen out.
In phrasal verbs like give in (surrender) or blow up (explode) we cannot predict the meaning of the idiomatic combination from the meaning of the verb and particle in isolation.
But in free combinations f.i: walk past we can do so. It is also possible to make substitutions. For walk in walk past we can substitute run, trot, swim, fly, and for past we can substitute by, in, through, over etc.
In other cases the adverb in a free combination has an intensifying force (chatter away) or an aspectual force (drink up).
There are also syntactic signs of cohesion. Normally the particle of a phrasal verb cannot be separated from the lexical verb, but this separation is also possible in free combinations.
ü Go straight on.
Similarly the adverb can be fronted in free combinations but not in phrasal verbs:
ü Out came the sun.
Transitive phrasal verbs:
Many phrasal verbs may take a direct object and therefore are transitive.
ü We will set up a new unit
ü They have called off the strike.
Some combinations such as give I and blow up can be either intransitive or transitive. In some cases f.i. give in there is a substantial difference in meaning, whereas in others f.i: blow up there is not
Place of the direct object:
As with free combinations of the same pattern, the particle can either precede or follow the direct object.
ü They turned on the light.
ü They turned the light on.
But when the object is a personal pronoun, the particle must follow the object:
ü They turned it on.
ü They turned on it (WRONG)
The article tends to precede the object if the object is long or if it is intended that the object should receive end-focus.
ü They turned down what George said.
Like intransitive phrasal verbs, transitive phrasal verbs are distinguished semantically from free combinations of verb and adverb.
We can contrast the phrasal verb take in in “She took her parents in” (deceived) with the free combination in “ She took in the box” (brought inside) where the 2 parts preserve their separate meanings.
If the transitive phrasal verb is fully idiomatic, the particle cannot normally be separated from the lexical verb by anything except the object, not even by an intensifier such as right. F.i. bring up is a free combination in “she brought the girls right up” since the phrasal verb bring up (rear) does not allow the interruption.
Type 1 prepositional verbs:
It consists of a lexical verb followed by a preposition with which it is semantically and/or syntactically associated
ü Look at these pictures.
ü Can you cope with the work?
ü I approve of their action
The noun phrase following the preposition is a prepositional object.
The passive is frequently possible for prepositional verbs:
ü The picture was looked at by many people.
We can easily insert an adverbial between the lexical verb and the preposition
ü Many people looked disdainfully at the picture.
We can isolate the whole prepositional phrase from the verb in other ways.
ü He called on his mother more often than on his sister.
The distinction between prepositional verbs and free combinations:
1. One criterion is the possibility of making the prepositional object the subject of a corresponding passive clause.
A prepositional verb: We called on the dean
The dean was called on.
A free combination: We called after lunch
Lunch was called after (WRONG)
In this prepositional passive the preposition is stranded in its post-verbal position.
2. A second criterion is that wh-questions eliciting the prepositional object are formed with the pronouns who(m) and what rather than with adverbial questions.
ü John called on her – Who did John call on?
ü John looked for it – What did John look for?
In free combinations:
ü John called from the office- Where did John call from?
ü John called after lunch – When did John call?
The distinction between prepositional verbs and phrasal verbs:
Type 1 prepositional verbs resemble transitive phrasal verbs superficially, but the differences are both syntactic and phonological.
The contrast is exemplified for the prepositional verb call on (visit) and the phrasal verb call up (summon)
1. The particle of a prepositional verb must precede the prepositional object: She called on her friends but the particle of a phrasal verb can generally precede or follow the direct object.
ü She called on her friends
ü She called up her friends/ her friends up.
2. When the object is a personal pronoun, the pronoun follows the particle of a prepositional verb but precedes the particle of a phrasal verb:
ü She called on them
ü She called them up
3. An adverb functioning as adjunct can often be inserted between verb and particle in prepositional verbs, but not in phrasal verbs.
ü She called angrily on her friends
ü She called angrily up her friends (WRONG)
4. The particle of a phrasal verb cannot precede a relative pronoun or wh-interrogative:
ü The friends on whom she called / On which friends did she call?
ü The friends up whom she called / Up which friends did she call? friends (WRONG)
5. The particle of a phrasal verb is normally stressed and in final position normally bears the nuclear tone, whereas the particle of a prepositional verb is normally un stressed and has the tail of the nuclear tone that falls on the lexical verb
ü Which friends did she call on?
ü Which friends did she call up?
Type 2 prepositional verbs:
They are ditransitive verbs. They are followed by 2 noun phrases, normally separated by the preposition. The second noun phrase is the prepositional object.
ü She thanked us for the present.
ü They have provided the child with a good education
ü He deprived the peasants of their land.
The direct object becomes the subject in the corresponding passive clause.
ü The gang robbed her of her necklace.
ü She was robbed of her necklace (by the gang).
They have in addition to the lexical verb, both an adverb and a preposition as particles:
1. Type 1: Phrasal-prepositional verbs have only a prepositional object.
ü He had to put up with a lot of teasing at school.
ü He thinks he can get away with everything.
The prepositional passive is possible, though liable to sound cumbersome.
ü The death penalty has been recently done away with.
2. Type 2: Phrasal-prepositional verbs are ditransitive verbs. They require 2 objects, the second of which is the prepositional object.
ü I´ll let you in on a secret.
ü Don´t take it out on me.
Only the active direct object can be made passive subject with these:
ü Our success can be put down to hard work
For both types the wh-question eliciting the prepositional object is formed with the pronouns whom and what.
ü She looked in on Mrs Johnson on our way back.
ü Whom did she look in on?
ü They success put their success down to hard work.
ü What did they put their success down to?
Other multi-word verb constructions:
Some other idiomatic verb constructions may be noted:
1. Verb-adjective combinations: They are similar to phrasal verbs
ü Meg put the cloth straight
The constructions may be copular (break even, lie mow) or they may be complex-transitive with a direct object following the verb: cut (their trip) short, rub (herself) dry.
2. Verb- Verb combinations: The second verb is non-finite and may be either an infinitive: make do, let go, let be or a participle with or without a following preposition: get rid of, put paid to.
3. Verbs with 2 prepositions: They are a further variant on prepositional verbs. One or both prepositional phrases can be omitted
ü It developed from a small club into a mass organization