Two Word Verbs

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When the word or words that come after a specific verb have the effect of significantly changing its meaning then we refer to this new verb as a phrasal verb or multi-word verb. Whether you are looking on the desk, in the desk, or under the desk you are doing the same thing but if you are looking for the desk then you are doing something completely different. The phrasal verbs look for, look after, look up and look up to have nothing to do with the verb look and must be learned separately. Most phrasal verbs are separable which means that you can say they called the meeting off or they called off the meeting. But if you use a pronoun you must use the first form, they called it off. Inseparable phrasal verbs always use the second form, they went over the reports or they went over them.

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Phrasal verbs, two word verbs or multi-word verbs are verbs followed by one or more words that often change the meaning of the original verb.

There's no difference between "stand" and "stand up".

I want everybody to stand up and give a nice round of applause to our new General Manager.


But if you "stand down" it means that you renounce your post.

The controversy over the senator's involvement in the scandal forced him to stand down from his senate post.


If you "stand up" for someone it means that you defend this person's character, loyalty, ability etc.

When the company tried to blame one of the employees for the damage, all her co-workers stood up for her.


Separable / Inseparable

Sometimes the words that follow the verb can be separated and sometimes they can not.

"To work out" means to do physical exercise. In this case the two words can not be separated.

John likes to go to the gym to work out three times a week.


"To work out" also means to solve or resolve a problem. In this case the words can be separated.

They stayed at the office till late in order to work out a solution to the conflict.
They stayed at the office till late in order to work a solution out to the conflict.


If, however, you decide to use a pronoun you must put it between the two words that form the verb.

They stayed at the office till late in order to work it out.


Exercises: 12


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