I've just been posing and grappling with a similar question myself. Here is the best answer I've come up with…
In a sentence with an intransitive verb, and therefore no direct object, English is willing to regard the object of a prepositional phrase to the verb as the 'patient', or receiver of the verb's action (as moderated by the preposition). This can be shown by the fact that the 'patient' becomes the subject of a passive construction.
"Squatters lived in that house." "That house was lived in by squatters." The house is the patient, and receives the action 'lived in'.
Sometimes this practice doesn't work. "Sam struck in the heat of the moment." "The heat of the moment was struck in by Sam." But my contention would be that this is just massively clunky, an abuse of a metaphor, rather than ungrammatical. There's simply nothing useful achieved by the construction, it is stretched and absurd (but not ungrammatical).
To my mind, this practice of treating the object of a preposition as the 'patient' blurs and calls into question three distinctions:
Between direct object and object of a preposition.
Between transitive and intransitive verbs.
Between 'phrasal verbs' and any other combination of verb/preposition.
To state it one more time: in "The students lived in the house" the house receives the action (is the patient), 'lived in' is the complete verb and is transitive. Therefore, we can change it to "The house was lived in by the students." OR just "The house was lived in."
I think this means that all verb/preposition combinations are teetering on the edge of being phrasal verbs, which is why phrasal verbs are so common. It's just that some tip over into metaphor, and take on a life of their own.
After all, if I say "He shot down the plane", is 'shot down' really metaphoric, or is it easy to understand from its constituents? I think it's somewhere in between. But it is definitely a phrasal verb because you couldn't say "He shot bullets down the plane". "Down the plane" is not a prepositional phrase here. 'Shot down' is a transitive phrasal verb. But then, I would say so is 'lived in' or 'died in'. Where you draw the line is largely arbitrary.