Phrasal Verbs and Prepositional Verbs – Differences

What do Phrasal and Prepositional Verbs have in common and what are the differences?

Two-word verbs can be Phrasal Verbs or Prepositional Verb.

Phrasal Verbs often have a very different (idiomatic) meaning.

  • verb: look
  • adverb: in
  • Phrasal Verb: look in

1. What is the difference between a preposition and an adverb and why this distinction is important.

An object can go before or after an adverb – but it can only go after a preposition. So:

  • Phrasal Verbs can be separated
  • Prepositional Verbs must not be separated.

1.1. Phrasal Verbs

  • correct: verb + object + adverb → I switch the computer on.
  • correct: verb adverb + object → I switched on the computer.

1.2. Prepositional Verbs

  • correct: verb + preposition + object → The cat jumped on the computer.
  • incorrect: verb + object + preposition → The cat jumped the computer on.

Note: Some adverbs can be also used as a preposition. You should use a good dictionary to find out whether the word is an adverb or a preposition. We decided to put Phrasal and Prepositional Verbs in one list.