What Is a Prepositional Verb?

Dee Jones

In English grammar, a prepositional verb is made up of a verb and a preposition. For example, in the phrase “waiting for,” the word “waiting” is the verb and the word “for” is the preposition. Along with propositional verbs, there are other types of multi-word verbs, which are also known as phrasal verbs. Prepositional verbs are also considered idiomatic expressions, which means that the words that make up the verbs have different literal meanings separately than they do when combined. Finally, in order for multi-word verbs to truly be considered a prepositional verbs, a noun or pronoun must follow the preposition.

"Waiting for" is the preposition verb in the sentence, "He was waiting for the slap."
"Waiting for" is the preposition verb in the sentence, "He was waiting for the slap."

There are many types of multi-word verbs, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between them. One way to recognize that a mutli-word verb is a prepositional verb is by considering certain factors. Unlike some mutli-word verbs, a prepositional verbs are transitive, which means they have direct objects. In the sentence, “She walked down the street,” the street is the direct object, and walked down is the prepositional verb. The direct object in the sentence, “I went for a drive,” is a drive, while the prepositional verb is went for.

While some phrasal verbs can be found at the end of a sentence, this is cannot be the case with prepositional verbs because the preposition must be followed by a noun or pronoun. In the sentence, “She didn’t want to jump down,” jump down is a phrasal verb, but it is not a prepositional verb. The sentence, “She didn’t want to jump from the tree,” however, does contain a prepositional verb. Jump is the verb, from is the preposition, and “the tree” is the noun following the preposition.

Some transitive phrasal verbs are separable, but a prepositional verb is inseparable, meaning the sentence will not make sense if the verb and the preposition are separated by other words. In the sentence, “She was sitting on the chair,” the word “sitting” is the verb, and the word “on” is the preposition. If the prepositional verb was separated and the sentence written as, “She was sitting the chair on,” the sentence would no longer make sense or be grammatically correct.

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