by Liz Walter
Phrasal verbs are never easy, but this post will explain some very common mistakes and show you how to avoid making them.
One thing that often causes problems is using another verb after a phrasal verb. Just as with one-word verbs, you need to know the pattern of the verb that follows. Probably the most common mistakes are with phrasal verbs that need an -ing verb after them:
I’m looking forward to seeing you soon.
I’m looking forward to see you soon.
Look forward to is a common and useful phrasal verb, so it is important to remember to use an -ing verb after it. My theory is that it’s because the verb itself is so often used in the present continuous (-ing form) that students often can’t quite believe you need another -ing form after it – but you do!
I asked them to be quiet, but they carried on talking.
I asked them to be quiet, but they carried on to talk.
Back in 2015, I wrote a post on 3-word phrasal verbs. Verbs that follow them always need -ing forms:
The flowers are to make up for missing her birthday.
We couldn’t talk her out of quitting her job.
Although most mistakes come from forgetting to use an -ing verb, some phrasal verbs must be followed by a to-infinitive:
The man turned out to be a doctor.
The man turned out being a doctor.
We didn’t set out to win any prizes.
We didn’t set out winning any prizes.
A good learner’s dictionary such as the one on this site will give you information about verb patterns, often with an example, so if you are in doubt, look at the relevant entry.
The other extremely common mistake with phrasal verbs is the position of pronouns (words like him, it, us).
We collected the books and put them away.
We collected the books and put away them.
I love jogging. I took it up last year.
I love jogging. I took up it last year.
If you look at my previous posts, you’ll find several more about phrasal verbs. Do let me know if there’s anything in particular you still want to know about them!