Recently, I stumbled upon a phrase "fed up" in one sentence. On the first glance, I was thinking it should be a phrasal verb but it didn't correlate with the sentence meaning. I found out that it is an adjective with the meaning: "Unable or unwilling to put up with something any longer".

It seems to be a compound adjective greatly explained here - https://www.thefreedictionary.com/Compound-Adjectives.htm, like a combination of a past participle and a preposition.

Now, I'm in a mess - what the difference between compound adjectives like that and phrasal verbs.

Do you know any other compound adjectives that resemble phrasal verbs?

  • I don't think it's common in AmE, but BrE speakers often express the same sentiment by saying they've had a gut full of / ...[gutfull... / ...gutful... of [whatever they're fed up with]. Dec 21, 2018 at 12:59
  • 1
    It's an idiomatic adjective, so it can't be a verbal idiom (your phrasal verb). The two words "fed and up" are inseparable, so I suppose we could call it a complex word. Compound adjectives are single words, often hyphenated, but not entirely separate. For example, "greenhouse" is a compound noun, but "green house" is a syntactic construction (head + attributive modifier).
    – BillJ
    Dec 21, 2018 at 13:21

2 Answers 2


A phrasal verb can be described as an action, such as I don't want to see him because he will (look down on) me. whereas you would never say I don't want to see him because he will (feed me up).

The phrasal verb focuses on the process regardless of the result, but the compound adjective is wholly concerned with the current condition, regardless of the process by which that condition was achieved. There is certainly some grey area involved in the distinction. "Fed up" is an interesting clear case in which it would never be used as a verb. To turn that phrase into a verb would require a statement such as "He always gets me fed up" which requires a completely separate verb.

Another way to look at it is that a phrasal verb, whether used passively or actively, automatically leads the statement to an implied or stated subject. (He was looked down on) has no subject doing the looking, but implies that a specific subject did exist that did indeed look down on him, and therefore is a phrasal verb in past participle form.

(He was pooped out) also has no subject doing the pooping, but contrary to the first example, no subject is needed. The fact is that he had no energy, whether or not anything could be identified to have made him that way. This is therefore a compound adjective.


Past participles, hold a sense of being acted upon and when single, are used attributively. They have their predicative uses as well.

  • I am tired.( It tires me )

When it is a group verb/ phrasal verb the particle attached to it modulates the meaning. It has also attrubutive or predicative use.

  • The police was beefed up(by...)

  • Forms are filled in (by...)

  • Filled in forms are being scrutinized

  • I was fed up (with...){The system fed up me.}

  • The rules are adhered to.(by... )

It can as well be marked that the constructions are in a sense passive. The convention has the final say as to the predicative or attributive use, none else. They are participle adjectives.

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