Verbs, nouns, or adjectives plus prepositions
There are some ‘sayings’ that have been adopted into the English language. Some of these sayings are formed by putting a verb and a preposition together to form what is called a phrasal verb. You can also form other phrases by mixing adjectives or nouns with a preposition.
With a verb:
I would like to work for a large robotics company.
‘Work’ is a verb, ‘for’ is a preposition. This is a phrasal verb.
With a noun:
There is no reason for that kind of behaviour.
The ‘reason for’ in this sentence is treated as a noun.
With an adjective:
He is very interested in ancient civilisations.
The ‘interested in’ phrase is adjectival - it is used to add information about the pronoun ‘he’.
When you put a verb and a preposition together, you get what’s called a phrasal verb:
When you combine these two types of words, you get a new verb, which can sometimes mean something quite different to the original verb. For instance, take the verb ‘look’ - it means to direct your eyes towards something and see it. It’s normally used something like this:
He did not want to look because he was afraid she would look back.
In this sentence the first time ‘look’ is used, it’s just a normal verb in the infinitive tense - ‘to look’. However, you can add a preposition to this verb to make it mean something significantly different:
If you interpreted this sentence literally, you would be thinking that someone is asking someone else to look up a number, perhaps like a cheeky child might try and look up someone’s skirt. In this case, however, ‘look up’ is a phrasal verb and means that someone will try to find the number in an address book or something similar.
There are lots of other phrasal verbs. You basically have to learn their meaning - sometimes it’s impossible to work out what the phrasal verbs means any other way. Another example is the phrasal verb ‘run across’. Literally, this means to run along and over something. But when it’s used as a phrasal verb, it means to find or meet by chance:
Last night I ran across my ex-girlfriend’s mum.
Notice that you can use different tenses to form the phrasal verb. In this case, I’ve used ‘ran’ rather than ‘run’.