Phrasal verbs

A phrasal verb is a phrase (a group of two or more words working together) that functions as a verb

For example, any of these phrases would mean something completely different if one of the words were removed:

Most phrasal verbs have single-word synonyms—for example, exercise for work out, flee for run away, arrive for show up. In formal writing, the single-word equivalents are usually best. But in other kinds of writing, phrasal verbs help convey a casual, light tone and may have shades of meaning not covered by the shorter alternatives.

False phrasal verbs

Some common phrases resemble phrasal verbs but are actually redundancies.  For example, each of these phrases would convey the same meaning without the second word:

  • calculate out
  • climb up
  • meet up
  • rest up
  • sit down
  • stand up
  • write down

Phrasal verbs and spaces

Many phrasal verbs have corresponding one-word nouns—such as breakdown, burnout, meltdown, runawayshutout, workout. When using the phrasal verb forms, don’t forget to keep the space. For example, this is questionable:

Once a budget is passed, the appropriations subcommittees workout the details for the various government programs … [CNN]

Here, the writer should use the phrasal verb work out instead of the noun workout.

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