How to use Separable Phrasal Verbs – “Basics”

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In general, Phrasal Verbs are a Verb + Preposition combination, like “cheer up.” But, there’s another kind of Phrasal Verb too, the Separable Phrasal Verb. 

Scat Singing Cheers me up

What is Scat Singing, you may ask? In Jazz, an American style of music, Scat Singing is the use of nonsense words like “zippity zippity zippity zam za zim” to make improvised melodies. 

How do nonsense words relate to learning English? In our case, these sounds cheer the Speaker up, which brings us to Phrasal Verbs – “cheer up” is a Phrasal Verb. 

Image Representation of the content above

In Separable Phrasal Verbs, the Object (in regards to SVO) can be placed between the Verb and the Preposition, like in the saying “cheers me up.” Here are a few other examples of Separable Phrasal Verbs: 

  • Called me up
  • Gave the book back 
  • Hung the phone up
  • Dropped you off
  • Figured it out

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. The examples are written in the past tense but can be in the present/future tense as well.

The Narrative

Situations in which I might encounter Separable Phrasal Verbs

You may hear a native English speaker say:

“Scat Singing cheers me up.” 

By saying this, the Speaker is telling the Listener that a certain type of Jazz singing makes them feel happy. 

Separable Phrasal Verbs are common and used in everyday conversation. Often, they are idioms but don’t have to be. You may hear phrases like “fill it out,” or “fill it up,” both are Separable Phrasal Verbs. 

A Bit of Grammar

What are the rules for using Separable Phrasal Verbs in a full sentence?

You get the idea, Separable Phrasal Verbs have a simple syntax. It’s:

Verb, Noun (the Object), and then a Preposition. 

Here’s a syntax tree for visual representation. 

Notice that the speaker isn’t mentioned until the Verb Phrase. The Speaker refers to himself/herself as “me.” This appears in the middle of the Phrasal Verb, between “cheers” and “up.”

All other aspects of Grammar and syntax are as usual. The subject is a Noun ETC.

Examples of Separable Phrasal Verbs

  • I will give the book back to him next week.
  • Fina hung up the phone immediately when her mother called her. 
  • His friends cheered him up when he felt sad. 

Let’s practice 

Q1: Try making your own sentence.

Q2: What are you willing to give up to achieve success? 

Q3: How do you calm yourself down in a stressful situation?

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