I’m trying to describe a character reaching his hands out trying to catch a frog:

_He reached his hands out to catch the frog…

I wasn’t sure which preposition to use with the phrasal verb. I looked for some examples in the internet and what I found confused me:

_I saw his hands reaching up in the air towards nothing.

_His hand was reaching for this woman's bag.

_I was dreaming about hands reaching at me.

_He was reaching his hand out to me.

_You were reaching your hand down and saying, "Trust me."

  • 1
    This isn't a phrasal verb. It's a normal verb with a preposition. Just like walk: you can walk up, walk down, walk around, walk in, walk out, etc.
    – Juhasz
    Jan 3, 2019 at 19:10
  • 1
    Related: Meaning of up/down after a verb TL;DR: "There really aren't any handy shortcuts. You just have to learn when to use up and down in each phrasal verb you encounter."
    – Robusto
    Jan 3, 2019 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


To describe a character reaching his hands out trying to catch a frog, one can say:

  • He reached out his hands for the frog.

The prepositions included in OP's question all describe either different directions in which the hands were extended (upwards, downwards, outwards: respectively, reach up, reach down, reach out), or the purpose of reaching one's hands (to get or catch something: reach for, or to attack somebody: reach at).

All of the verbs above can be considered to be multi-word verbs. They may be more or less idiomatic, and therefore less or more transparent, as shown by this table from English Prepositions Explained by Seth Lindstromberg:

Degrees of idiomaticity & transparency

  • 1
    This is very helpful. I have to consider both the direction and the purpose.
    – vanity
    Jan 5, 2019 at 21:11

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