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As we know, we use phrasal verbs in which we put prepositions(and adverbs) after verbs that affect the meaning of the action mentioned in the sentence. For instance, taking the example of the verb run(used in past tense in the examples), we can have the following sentences:-

  1. John ran into his teacher at the theater.
  2. The inspector ran after the criminal.
  3. David ran away on seeing the ghost.

In all the above sentences the preposition affects the action being performed. However, I see no way to know what should be the preposition should be used after a particular verb.

So, is there any way to determine what preposition may be used with a particular verb?

Note: I am only concerned with the prepositions that come after verbs. So, I have not used phrasal verbs involving adverbs in the sentences.

  • The first thing you need to realise is that the structures of 'Joe ran up a large hill' and 'Joe ran up a large bill' are very different, though they are formally identical. The first uses the simplex verb 'run' and the prepositional phrase 'up a large hill' (probably as a directional); the second uses the transitive multi-word verb 'run up' (= amass/incur) and the direct object 'a large bill'. And grey areas exist. // I have a volume on multi-word verbs (though it still uses the traditional name 'phrasal verbs'); it's hundreds of pages long. // I wouldn't use 'Joe ran above a large hill'. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 7 '18 at 16:22
  • Ok, I understand that but the main problem lies here, – user24225 Apr 7 '18 at 16:25
  • In sentence (1),"John ran into his teacher.", how is "into" making sense? – user24225 Apr 7 '18 at 16:26
  • ''Run into' is an obligatorily transitive obligatorily inseparable multi-word verb meaning either 'encounter by chance' or 'collide with'. Possibly, 'The debt ran into thousands of dollars' and 'We've run into a problem' are just metaphorical extensions. 'Run into' is a cohesive unit here. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 7 '18 at 16:30
  • No, I'm afraid not. English has huge number of 'verbal idioms' (that's their correct name) and you'll just have to familiarise yourself with which verbs select which prepositions. Incidentally, I'd strongly advise you to drop the term 'phrasal verb'. It's a misnomer and best avoided since these expressions are not multi-verb phrases -- at word level "ran into", for example, is not a verb, but separate constituents, verb + preposition. – BillJ Apr 7 '18 at 17:02

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