Let's assume that we have 2 words: X and into. In dictionary the phrase X+into is accepted as a phrasal verb when it means A. We can also use X with the word into again, but then it literally means something to do with the word X. For example it means B, not A. Do we still count the second one as a phrasal verb or does it have to have the first meaning (A)?

For example, the phrasal verb walk into something means easily getting a job. We can use walk and into together in a sentence but they can mean literally walking, crashing etc. Do we still count the one with the literal meaning as a phrasal verb or does it depend on the meaning as a phrasal verb that is written in the dictionary?

  • Actually there was a question like this: The spaceship sucked into the blackhole. And it says that we can't count suck into as a phrasl verb here. Is it because is it different from it's phrasal meaning that is in the dictionary? Cuz, suck into is normally a phrasal verb meaning to cause someone or something to gradually become involved in an unpleasant situation or harmful activity.
    – Melis
    Feb 11 at 16:38
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    You have to provide examples. Right, suck//into a black hole is not a phrasal verb. Neither is: walk into. He walked /into the situation. Those are prepositional phrases.
    – Lambie
    Feb 11 at 16:45
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    'Phrasal verb' has different definitions which actually conflict, and is a term that many grammarians therefore reject. Certainly 'turn into' in say 'the caterpillar turned into a beautiful butterfly' is more cohesive (with the synonym 'became') than 'turn into' in 'the lorry turned into a beautiful country lane'. I'd class the first usage as 'transitive multi-word verb + object (arguably complement)', the second as 'verb + prepositional phrase'. Feb 11 at 19:34
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    Also, there are many phrasal verbs that have multiple meanings. The couple was making out when there was a knock at the door. I couldn't make out the sign in the fog. He made out the check for $500. How are you making out in your new job? He made them out to be troublemakers
    – DjinTonic
    Feb 11 at 23:20
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    Walk into is not a phrasal verb. I don’t think it’s even a prepositional verb. Feb 12 at 0:30

2 Answers 2


In Multi-word Verbs in Early Modern English, Claudia Claridge†, is the following:

The following list of possible particles in phrasal verbs† is based on those in Quirk et al (1985:1151), Cowie and Mackin (1975:lxxx) and Fraser (1976:5), as well as my own data (cf. also Bolinger 1971:17f):

aback, aboard, about, above, across, after, ahead, along, apart, around, ashore, aside, astray, asunder, away, back, behind, by, counter, down, forth, forward/s, home, in, off, on, out, over, past, round, through, to, together, under, up

This is not a complete list (which might be hard to achieve anyway, according to Bolinger) ...

The italicized items in the list can be used as prepositions [ie take a noun group] as well.

Note: Claridge spends pages explaining the conflicting usages of the term 'phrasal verb' and other related terms, and chooses one definition to work with. Essentially, the cohesiveness of verb + particle-or-preposition is the discriminating factor used, but even here this is dependent on the actual constituency tests applied.

In answer to the original question, though, obviously Claridge considers some of these structures to be multi-word verb + noun group, and some (with the same particle/preposition, at least), to be verb + PP.

The usual examples given to illustrate the difference include

  • She looked up the date of Easter.

  • She looked up the road.

  • He ran up a huge bill.

  • He ran up the lane.


To "waltz into" a situation, for example, means, figuratively, to enter it blithely, or in an uncaring or arrogant manner, or unaware of its difficulties and nuances --some kind of negative. But we can also say "In Act 2, Scene 3, the dancers waltz into the train station, where the hero and heroine are having a spat", and there it has a literal meaning. The literal example is not a phrasal verb but simply a verb of motion complemented by a locative prepositional phrase.

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    A flash mob in 3/4 time? Feb 11 at 23:47

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