Differences among Phrasal Verbs, Phrasal-prepositional Verbs and Prepositional Verbs

Differences between Phrasal Verbs and Prepositional Verbs

I am glad to find you always reading my posts on the language of the Queen! It is always heart-warming! Now, what do I have for you? It is to show you a very simple linguistic trick; how to know the Differences among Phrasal Verbs, Phrasal-prepositional Verbs and Prepositional Verbs.

Do you know what Prepositions are? If not do yourself a favour to check that out on this site. It might be pretty difficult to know the differences among these three linguistic concepts if you do not know what those concepts are severally! So take time out to read the post on Phrasal verbs, I have written extensively on them. You can also check out the post on Prepositional Phrase.

Phrasal Verbs are distinct from Phrasal-Prepositional Verbs! There is yet another entirely different concept from the two earlier mentioned; that is Prepositional Verbs! I have explained that as well, make sure you look it up! Now let us get to our pertinent discussion: Differences among Phrasal Verbs, Phrasal-prepositional Verbs and Prepositional Verbs.

Differences among Phrasal Verbs, Phrasal-prepositional Verbs and Prepositional Verbs

The following differences are distinct:

The preposition in a prepositional verb must come before the prepositional object. Note that in all the examples given below, the prepositions in each of the prepositional verbs come before the prepositional objects:

  • Civil servants always hope for improvements in their work conditions.
  • Many people live on meagre incomes.
  • She cannot part with any of her materials.
  • Let us refer to the dictionary.
  • The students resorted to violence due to lack of electricity.
  • The president planned to run for another term in office.
  • Her father does not approve of her relationship with the man.
  • The doctor attended to the patient.
  • She shouted for help immediately.
  • My teacher expatiated on the grey areas of the course.

Insertion of an Adverb

The prepositional verb allows for the placement or insertion of an adverb between the verb and the preposition. Examples:

  • We objected strongly to her rash decision.
  • He cares passionately for his family.
  • They compete keenly with each other for the trophy.

This cannot be done in the case of Phrasal Verbs or phrasal-prepositional Verbs.

Consider the following illustrations:

  • *He puts graciously up with his wife’s attitude (ungrammatical)

Rather, we can have the sentence properly rendered like this:

  • He graciously puts up with his wife’s attitude. Or
  • He puts up with his wife’s attitude graciously.
  • *The teacher rounded quickly off the lecture. (ungrammatical)

This can, however, be recast thus:

  • The teacher quickly rounded off the lecture. Or
  • The teacher rounded off the lecture quickly.
  • *The boy needs to cut seriously down on his spending. (ungrammatical)

Rather, the sentence can be recast in these three forms:

  • Seriously, the boy needs to cut down on his spending.
  • The boy needs to cut down on his spending seriously.
  • The boy seriously needs to cut down on his spending.

Phrasal-Prepositional Verb

However, in the case of Phrasal-prepositional Verb, an adverb can be inserted between the adverb and preposition which cannot be done with Prepositional Verb or Phrasal Verb. Consider these examples:

  • The boy needs to cut down seriously on his spending.
  • I need to catch up diligently on my reading.
  • He puts up graciously with his wife’s attitude.
  • They party stood up firmly for their beliefs.

Note also that in relative clauses and questions where the object is placed at the front, the adverb and preposition usually come after the verb. See the following examples:

  • What have the thieves made away with?
  • You would not believe the person I had to stand in with.
  • Who was the bully she had to stand up to?

 Prepositional Verbs vs. Phrasal Verbs

Many students of English confuse prepositional verbs with transitive phrasal verbs because there is no obvious physical difference between the two; but there is a clear distinction. What is this distinction? It is simple! The particle or the second word in a prepositional verb is a Preposition while the particle or the second word in a phrasal verb is prepositional adverb. Let us demonstrate this. Look at these two sentences:

  • The boys ran across the road. (across, in this context, is a preposition)
  • The careless driver ran over the poor dog. (over, in this context, is a prepositional adverb)

The difference becomes clear when you discover that the noun phrase after the preposition in first sentence cannot be placed in front of its particle across or after the verb ran, that is: *The boys ran the road across; (ungrammatical) while in the second sentence, the noun phrase after the prepositional adverb can be placed in front of its particle over or after the verb ran, that is: The careless driver ran the poor dog over.

It is good to note also that the noun phrase after a prepositional verb is sometimes called a prepositional object. Semantically, the role it plays in a sentence is quite similar to that of the object of a transitive verb. Consider and compare these two sentences:

  • The boys ran across the road.
  • The boys crossed the road.

Recap

It would be appropriate to give you rundown of all our gist so far:

  1. The preposition in a prepositional verb must come before the prepositional object.
  2. The prepositional verb allows for the placement or insertion of an adverb between the verb and the preposition but not Phrasal Verbs or phrasal-prepositional Verbs.
  3. In the case of Phrasal-prepositional Verb, an adverb can be inserted between the adverb and preposition which cannot be done with Prepositional Verb or Phrasal Verb.
  4. However, a Phrasal Verb can accommodate a nominal element (noun, noun phrase) or a pronominal element (pronoun) in between the verb and the prepositional adverb. Look at these two Phrasal Verbs:
  • Argue down – defeat someone in a debate
  • Back up – provide someone with help in reserve; support someone; give additional support or evidence about something. (Support or strengthen the facts.)

If we use them in sentences, we can insert a nominal element (noun, noun phrase) or a pronominal element (pronoun) in between the verb and the prepositional adverb or particle:

  • Jide argued Deola down in the first round. (noun)
  • Deola and Jide argued their opponents down at the nationals. (noun phrase)
  • She backed me up on my claim. (pronoun)

I’m sure you can differentiate among these prepositional concepts as I like to call them. Can I give you a take home assignment? Very well then!

Quiz

Attempt any five of the questions below on your own (you may need to consult other posts), while you do the remaining two with a friend.  Use your own generated sentences as examples to back up your claims!

  1. What is a Phrasal-Prepositional Verb?
  2. Explain the term ‘Phrasal Verb’
  3. What is a Prepositional Verb?
  4. Define a Prepositional Phrase
  5. Prepositional Object
  6. Explain what a Prepositional Adverb is
  7. Define Prepositional Complement

References

  • Leech G. & Svartvik, J. (1975) A Communicative Grammar of English (3rd Ed.) Longman: Harlow
  • Leech G. (2006) A Glossary of English Grammar. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

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