Difference Between Phrasal Verbs and Prepositional Verbs

Main Difference – Phrasal Verbs vs Prepositional Verbs

Phrasal Verbs and Prepositional Verbs are both made up of more than one word. Phrasal verbs are made up of a verb and a particle. This particle can either be an adverb or a preposition; sometimes a phrasal verb can have more than one particle. A prepositional verb is made up of a verb and a preposition. The main difference between phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs is that phrasal verbs are separable whereas prepositional verbs are inseparable.

What are Phrasal Verbs

A phrasal verb is a verb that is made of a verb and a particle. The addition of the new element often creates a new meaning to the verb. Many English verb roots combine with particles to create new idiomatic expressions.

You have to hand in the report by next week. → Hand + in = Submit

He turned down the job offer. → Turn + down = refuse

I ran into your mother yesterday at the market. → Run + into = meet

The police looked into the matter. → Look + into =Investigate

We can count on him. → Count + on = trust

Phrasal verbs are commonly made of transitive verb roots and particles. Nevertheless, intransitive phrasal verbs can also form phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs can be categorized into separable phrasal verbs and inseparable phrasal verbs. This categorization is based on the position of the object.

Transitive phrasal verbs are usually separable. This means that the object is placed between the verb and the preposition/adverb. Here, the verb and the particle can be separated.

Write this number down before you forget.

Unlike separable phrasal verbs, some phrasal verbs cannot be separated. The object is placed after the particle in such verbs.

I ran into some friends of yours.

Your youngest son takes after you.

However, some transitive phrasal verbs can take an object in both places.

She gave your money back.

She gave back your money.

However, if the object is a personal pronoun, it must be between the verb and the particle.

I looked it up. – I looked your number up in the phone book.

Difference Between Phrasal Verbs and Prepositional Verbs

He works out three times a week at the fitness center.

What are Prepositional Verbs

A prepositional verb is a combination of a verb and a preposition; it contains a verb followed by a preposition. Since prepositions always follow an object, all prepositional verbs have direct objects. This means that prepositional verbs are transitive. Some common prepositional verbs include,

She listened to music. – listen + to

I’m waiting for my mother. – wait + for

Somebody is knocking at the door. – knock + at

Prepositional verbs are inseparable. This means that the object cannot be situated between the verb and the preposition. The object must always follow the preposition.

Main Difference - Phrasal Verbs vs Prepositional Verbs

She is listening to music.

Difference Between Phrasal Verbs and Prepositional Verbs


Phrasal Verbs are a combination of a verb root and a particle.

Prepositional Verbs are a combination of a verb root and a preposition.


Phrasal Verbs can be either transitive or intransitive.

Prepositional Verbs are transitive.


Phrasal Verbs can be either separable or inseparable.

Prepositional Verbs cannot be separated.Difference Between Phrasal Verbs and Prepositional Verbs

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