Three Word Phrasal Verbs and Phrasal Verbs with Pronouns


Building on last week’s lesson on phrasal verbs, this week we’re going to discuss three word phrasal verbs. We’re also going to cover the rules for using pronouns with transitive phrasal verbs.


A phrasal verb is an idiomatic expression consisting of a verb plus an adverb or preposition. The addition of the adverb/preposition gives the verb a different meaning than it has on its own.


If you need more help with phrasal verbs or any other aspect of the English language, contact the English Island in Atlanta. Our passionate, dedicated ESL teachers can create a lesson plan that is tailored to your individual needs.


Three Word Phrasal Verbs

Three word phrasal verbs are transitive. The phrasal verb must take an object in order for its meaning to make sense:


I’m trying to cut down on the number of processed foods that I eat.


“Cut down on” means “to decrease.”


The third party candidate dropped out of the race for mayor.


“Drop out of” means “to leave or exit.”


Most three word phrasal verbs are inseparable. You cannot insert the object between the words that make up the phrasal verb in either for the above examples:


I’m trying to cut the number of processed foods that I eat down on. (Incorrect)

I’m trying to cut down the number of processed foods that I eat on. (Incorrect)


The third party candidate dropped the race for mayor out of. (Incorrect)

The third party candidate dropped out the race for mayor of. (Incorrect)


Separable Transitive Phrasal Verbs and Pronouns

When the object of a separable transitive phrasal verb is a pronoun, you must place that object between the verb and the preposition. This can be a bit tricky because when the object is a noun the following placements are both correct:


I’ll look over the report this weekend.

I’ll look the report over this weekend.


However, if we replace “the report,” with the pronoun “it” in the above examples, only the second one is correct:


I’ll look over it this weekend. (Incorrect)

I’ll look it over this weekend. (Correct)