For today’s Grammar Time, we’re going to take a look at phrasal verbs and phrasal nouns. It’s easy to mix these up when you’re writing, and it’s important to know the difference between the two and how they’re used.
First, what is a phrasal verb? According to Merriam-Webster, a phrasal verb is “a phrase that combines a verb with a preposition or adverb or both and that functions as a verb whose meaning is different from the combined meanings of the individual words.”
You likely use phrasal verbs all the time without really thinking about it. There are hundreds of examples. Here are just a few:
- back up
- break down
- cool down
- dress up
- drop out
- hand out
. . . and the list goes on and on!
So, what are phrasal nouns? Simply put, they’re phrasal verbs that are being used as nouns. Not all phrasal verbs can be used as nouns, but many of them can—in fact, all of the verbs in the previous list are frequently used as nouns.
The big difference between phrasal nouns and phrasal verbs is spelling. Phrasal verbs are always two words:
- He backed up the hard drive.
- The car broke down.
- I need to cool down after exercising.
- The girls like to dress up.
- She dropped out of the class.
- The teacher hands out the tests.
Phrasal nouns are a bit trickier. Usually, they’re combined into one word:
- He keeps a backup, just in case.
- She had a breakdown because she was so stressed.
- The high school dropout just got his GED.
However, some phrasal nouns are hyphenated instead:
- The children played dress-up.
- Where is the drop-off location?
If you’re unsure whether a phrasal noun should be combined into one word or hyphenated, check the dictionary or do a quick Google search.
Hopefully this helps you the next time you’re wondering how to spell a phrasal verb or noun! Until next time!