Multi-word verbs

Level: intermediate

Two-part verbs

Some verbs are two-part verbs. They consist of a verb and a particle:

grow + up
The children are growing up.

Often this gives the verb a new meaning:

take + after
She takes after her mother.

     (= She looks like her mother or she behaves like her mother.)

count + on
I know I can count on you.

     (= I know I can trust you or I know I can believe you.)

Some two-part verbs have only one pattern

Subject Verb Particle Object
The children are growing up.
She takes after her mother.
I can count on you.
Two-part verbs 1


Two-part verbs 2


But other two-part verbs have two different patterns. The usual pattern is:

Noun (subject) Verb Noun (object) Particle
She gave the money back.
He knocked the glass over.
We will be leaving our friends behind.

but sometimes these verbs have the pattern:

Noun (subject) Verb Particle Noun (object)
She gave back the money.
He knocked over the glass.
We will be leaving behind our friends.

When the object is a personal pronoun, phrasal verbs always have the first pattern:

She gave it back. (NOT She gave back it.)

He knocked it over. (NOT He knocked over it.)

We will be leaving them behind(NOT We will be leaving behind them.)

Two-part verbs 3


Two-part verbs 4


Common verbs with their most frequent particles are:

bring about, along, back, forward, in, off, out, round, up
buy out, up
call off, up
carry off, out
cut back, down, off, out, up
give away, back, off
hand back, down, in, on, out, over, round
knock down, out, over
leave behind, out
let down, in, off, out
pass down, over, round
point out
push about, around, over
put across, away, down, forward, off, on, out, through, together, up
read out
set apart, aside, back, down
shut away, in, off, out
take apart, away, back, down, in, on, up, over
think over, through, up

Three-part verbs

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

Noun (subject) Verb Particle Particle Noun (object)
His girlfriend walked out on him.
She caught up with the other runners.
Children should look up to their parents.

Common three-part verbs are:

catch up with get on with look up to stick up for
face up to look forward to put up with walk out on
get away with look down on run away with watch out for

A few verbs have the pattern:

Noun (subject) Verb Noun (object of verb) Particle Particle Noun (object of particle)
We talked them out of leaving.
She put his mistakes down to inexperience.

Verbs like this are: 

do out of put down to take out on
let it on put up to talk out of
Three-part verbs 1


Three-part verbs 2



Average: 4.3 (16 votes)
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Submitted by alshada10 on Wed, 24/04/2024 - 12:42


Hi there,

Aren't 'phrasal verbs' and 'multi-word verbs' basically the same? 

In your other article '' I find the same definition to phrasal verbs as to multi-word verbs:

  1. multi-word verbs: 'They consist of a verb and a particle' (and it can be more than one particle as there are three-part-verbs)

2. phrasal verbs: 'Phrasal verbs are made of a verb plus one or two particles.'



Hello alshada10,

Many teachers and textbooks use the term 'phrasal verbs', but some prefer to speak of 'multi-word verbs'. But they essentially refer to the same thing.

Best wishes,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Vi_Vi on Thu, 11/04/2024 - 10:40


Good morning,

Could you tell me what the definition of "let it on" is?

It don't find it on the Cambridge dictionary.

Thank you in advance.


Hello Vi_Vi,

Could you please explain the context? I suppose it could mean 'reveal it', but it's hard to say for sure without knowing more about the situation.

Best wishes,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Khoshal on Wed, 26/07/2023 - 14:24


Hi teacher,
What’s the difference between Prepositions and particles? In three-part verbs like ‘look forward to’ , can we say the third part is a preposition because it can be followed by a noun phrase, a pronoun or the -ing form of a verb.

Hello Khoshal,

As far as I know, yes, the second particle in a three-part verb is a preposition.

There may be some exception to this, however, so I'm not willing to say that this is always the case. You might want to consider posting this question in the English Language & Usage Stack Exchange to see what others have to say on the matter.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Andrea NR on Thu, 23/03/2023 - 01:17


I'd like to know the difference, and/or different meanings, of "call round" and "call around".

Hello Andrea NR,

In the context of telephoning, the meaning is the same - to telephone a number of people when you want to organise something or to gather information. I think 'round' is more common in British English and 'around' in US English.


In British English, 'call round' can also mean 'visit' in the sense of a quick visit to a friend's house: I called round this afternoon but you weren't in.


Outside of the phrasal verb, round and around have slightly different uses. You can read about that here:



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Peter,
Thank you for your answer. So, in a sentence like "I might just call around their house" we don't know if the speaker might phone to a landline or pay a home visit. Unless, of course, we have more context.

Hello again,

There is one difference. When telephoning, call around means phoning several or many places, such as when you are trying compare the prices of something in difference shops or to find a restaurant where you can make a reservation. When visiting, call around simply means to visit and normally refers to a single place.



The LearnEnglish Team