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Prepositional Verbs

Like many grammars, we treat prepositional verbs as one kind of multiword verb. Other grammars may class all multiword verbs as "phrasal verbs".

The structure of a prepositional verb is:

verb + preposition

Because a preposition always has an object, all prepositional verbs have direct objects.

Look at these examples of prepositional verbs:

prepositional verb meaning example sentence
  direct object
believe in have faith in the existence of I believe in God.
look after take care of He is looking after the dog.
talk about discuss Did you talk about me?
wait for await John is waiting for Mary.

Prepositional verbs cannot be separated. That means that we cannot put the direct object between the two parts. For example, we must say "look after the baby". We cannot say "look the baby after":

tick Who is looking after the baby?
cross Who is looking the baby after?
It is a good idea to write "something/somebody" in your vocabulary book when you learn a new prepositional verb, like this:
  • believe in something/somebody
  • look after sthg/sby
This reminds you that the verb needs a direct object (and where to place it).