Two part verbs

Some verbs consist of two words – a verb and a particle (p). These verbs have a number of patterns:

Peter came in. (N + V + p)
He took out his diary. (N + V + p + N)
He gave the money back. (N + V + N + p)

Phrasal verbs

Some transitive two part verbs are phrasal verbs. They have two different patterns.

N + V + N + p

She gave the money back
He knocked the vase over
We will be leaving our friends behind


N + V + p + N

She gave back the money
He knocked over the vase
We will be leaving behind our friends.

When the object is a pronoun these verbs always have the first pattern N + V +N + p:

She gave it back
He knocked it over
We will be leaving them behind

Three part verbs

Some verbs are made up of three parts – a verb and two particles. They have the pattern:

N + V + p + p + N:

His girl friend walked out on him.
She soon caught up with the other runners
Children should look up to their parents.



Hello Kwaku Afewu,

The correct term here is 'particle' as phrasal verbs can be formed with both participles and adverbs; 'particle' is a term which can be used for both of these.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team


When the object is not a pronoun, Can I use (N+V+N+P) or (N+V+P+N) equally with all phrasal verbs, or there some phrasal verbs have only one pattern.

Hello Salem249,

There are some multi-word verbs which can be both [N+V+N+P] and [N+V+P+N]:

I looked the answer up.

I looked up the answer.

When the object is a pronoun only [N+V+N+P] is possible:

I looked it up.


I looked up it.

However, there are some two-part multi-word verbs which must use the pattern [N+V+P+N]:

The abbreviation 'e.g.' stands for 'exempli gratia'.

The abbreviation 'e.g.' stands for it.


The abbreviation 'e.g.' stands 'exempli gratia' for.

The abbreviation 'e.g.' stands it for.

These verbs are often described as 'non-separable' or 'inseparable' as the verb and the particle cannot be separated. There is no way to identify which multi-word verbs function like this; you simply have to learn them.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

1) "He almost laughed himself into a hernia"
2) "She smiled her way out of that tight corner"

Are these examples of intransitive verbs taking on a transitive form or are they a species of phrasal verbs

Hello Darshanie Ratnawalli,

In 1, the verb is reflexive and in 2 'to smile your way out of something' is a particular idiomatic use of the transitive form of the verb 'smile'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team