A phrasal verb is a verb that is made up of a main verb together with an adverb or a preposition, or both. Typically, their meaning is not obvious from the meanings of the individual words themselves. For example:


Un phrasal verb es un verbo formado por un verbo principal junto a un adverbio, una preposición o ambos. Normalmente, su significado no es obvio al traducir las palabras individualmente. Por ejemplo:


She has always looked down on me.

Fighting broke out among a group of 40 men.             (something begins suddenly)

Don’t put me off, I’m trying to concentrate.                     (to discourage someone)


For instance, in the first example, the phrasal verb ‘to look down on someone’ doesn’t mean that you are looking down from a higher place at someone who is below you; it means that you think that you are better than someone.

Por ejemplo, en la primera frase, el phrasal verb “to look down on someone” no significa que mires hacia abajo desde un lugar más elevado a alguien que se encuentra más abajo; significa que piensas que eres mejor que esa persona.


Phrasal verbs can be intransitive (i.e. they have no object):

Los phrasal verbs pueden ser intransitivos (no tienen complemento directo):


We broke up two years ago.                                 (end a relationship)

They set off early to miss the traffic.                      (to begin a journey)



or transitive (i.e. they can have an object):

o transitivos (con complemento directo)


The police were called to break up the fight.            (to intervene)

When the door is opened, it sets off an alarm.        (something begins)


Word order/Orden de las palabras


The verb and adverb elements which make up intransitive phrasal verbs are never separated:

El verbo y el adverbio que forman un phrasal verb intransitivo nunca van separados

✓  We broke up two years ago.

✗  We broke two years ago up.

The situation is different with transitive verbs, however. If the direct object  is a noun, you can say:

La situación es diferente con los verbos transitivos, sin embargo, si el complemento directo es un sustantivo, puedes decir:

✓ They pulled  the house down.
[direct object]
✓ They pulled down the house.



If the object is a pronoun  (such as it, him, her, them) , then the object always comes between the verb and the adverb:

Si el complemento directo es un pronombre reflexivo (me, te, se, nos, os, se), el complemento directo siempre se sitúa entre el verbo y el adverbio:

✓ They pulled  it down.
[direct object]
✗ They pulled down it.