English grammar

Module 3, Verbs, Lesson 10:

Idiomatic Verbs

English grammar

If you wake up in the morning, is there anything up about how you wake?
If you tell someone to shut up (which we know is rude), what up are they supposed to shut?

Definition: Idiomatic verbs are idioms. Idioms don't mean what they seem to say. If understood literally, idioms often don't make sense. We understand idioms because we use them all the time. Idioms in any language are challenging for people learning that language.

Idiomatic verbs are also called phrasal verbs since it takes a phrase to make the meaning complete. They are made up of a verb and a preposition.

Please fill out these forms so I can find out more about you.
If you fall behind in your homework, your parents will hear from your teacher.
If you blow up at your friends, it makes it harder to get along with them.
Prepositions usually have objects when they are part of a prepositional phrase. If the preposition does not have an object and is not an adverb, it might be part of an idiomatic verb.

Even though their meaning is not literal, we understand idiomatic verbs because we use them frequently. When using idiomatic verbs, many new English speakers often make mistakes.

When writing idiomatic verbs, writers run into trouble when they put words between parts of an idiomatic verb. Other times, writers try to give intransitive idiomatic verbs direct objects.

Separable: Some idiomatic verbs are transitive and can be separated by a noun or pronoun.

You will need to work out that problem on your own.
You have worked the problem out.

Inseparable: Some are transitive but cannot be separated

My mother usually disagrees with my grandmother.
Incorrect: My mother usually disagrees her with.

Intransitive: Some are intransitive; they do not take a direct object.

If you fall behind, you will have to work hard to catch up.
Incorrect: You will have to catch your homework up.
Correct: You will have to catch up on your homework.

Practice What You've Learned

English grammar
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Click on all the words in each idiomatic verb. Some sentences may have more than one. Some idiomatic verbs may be separated.
You might have gotten away with plagiarizing essays with your last teacher, but I doubt you will be able to fool me.
Every year, my uncle stands outside his store to give out poppies on Veterans Day.
You must give the cell phone you borrowed back to your friend before you break it.
Please rinse the dishes off before you put them in the dishwasher.
I hope I can count on your vote in the student council elections.
You were just showing off when you tried to ride your skateboard down those stairs.
If you stand up to a bully, you can often get him or her to back down.
We always wait until Three Kings' Day to take our Christmas tree lights down.
Now that I am thirteen, I look after my younger siblings and figure out their favorite games.
The Q in his name stands for Quentin.