TWO-AND THREE-WORD VERBS (WORD ORDER)
1) Two-word verbs
Some verbs are commonly used with a particular particle (preposition or adverb). We can call these two-word verbs.
- She had to let out her dress because she’d put on weight. (= made it larger)
- The company’s debts were mounting up. (= increasing)
- Tommy’s fallen over again. Can you help him up?
2) Three-word verbs
Some verbs are commonly used with an adverb + preposition. These are three-word verbs.
- Do you think he’s really likely to go through with his threat? (= do it)
- They’d sold out of washing powder at the supermarket. (= it had all been sold)
NOTE 1: A good dictionary will tell you if a particle is a preposition or adverb and explain the meaning of two- and three-word verbs.
NOTE 2: These two- and three-word verbs are sometimes called ‘phrasal’ and ‘prepositional’ verbs. It is often difficult to understand what they mean from the meaning of their separate parts.
3) Verb + particle + noun phrase
ç With some two-word verbs (verb + preposition), the noun phrase goes after the particle.
- I’m afraid that Simon met with an accident as he was driving home.
- The back door opens onto a small garden.
ç With other two-word verbs (verb + adverb), a noun phrase usually goes after the particle unless the noun phrase is a pronoun.
- She followed out the instructions exactly. (rather than …followed the instructions out…)
- She read the instructions and followed them out precisely. (not …followed out them…)
4) Verb + noun phrase + particle
With a few two-word verbs (verb + adverb), a noun phrase is usually placed or must be placed before the particle.
- She told the children off for stealing her apple. (rather than …told off the children…)
- Don’t forget to pull the door to when you go out. (not …pull to the door…)
5) Verb + particle + noun phrase or verb + noun phrase + particle
ç With some two-word verbs (verb + adverb), a noun phrase can go either before the particle or after it.
- Buying the new car has eaten up all my savings. or
- Buying the new car has eaten all my savings up.
NOTE 1: We use verb + noun phrase + particle when the noun phrase is a pronoun.
- Pam had to get rid of her car, and she sold it off at a very low price. (not …sold off it…)
- I won’t be able to go to the party. You’ll have to count me out. (not …count out me.)
NOTE 2: We prefer verb + particle + noun phrase when the noun phrase is long.
- She had to clean the kitchen up. (or …clean up the kitchen.)
- She had to clean up the mess on the kitchen floor. (rather than …clean the mess …up.)
6) Verb + adverb + preposition + noun phrase
ç With most three-word verbs, the noun phrase goes after the preposition.
- The government is to cut back on spending on the armed forces.
- He really looks up to his older brother.
ç However, a few three-word verbs have the noun phrase immediately after the verb. A second noun phrase will go after the preposition.
- I helped Lucy on with her coat. (= help her to put it on)
- She tried to talk me out of the plan. (= persuade not to do it)