- The eagle took off into the wind.
- The eagle stretched out his talons towards the water.
- Hungrily, the eagle looked for a meal.
- The eagle put up with the wind patiently.
The verb in sentence number 1. is a phrasal verb, which is used intransitively, i.e. it does not take a direct object. We can see that the sentence has the elements:
The eagle took off into the wind.
subject (S) verb(V) adverbial (A)
One of the ways that phrasal verbs 'behave' is that you cannot usually place an adverbial between the verb and the preposition. So we could not say: The eagle took into the wind off.
Sentence number 2 has a transitive phrasal verb. It takes the direct object (Od) 'his talons'. We can analyse the elements of this sentence:
The eagle stretched out his talons towards the water.
S V Od A
As with intransitive phrasal verbs, we are unable to place the adverbial phrase between the verb and the preposition: The eagle stretched towards the water out his talons.
However, transitive phrasal verbs can be separated by the direct object. So we can manipulate in the following ways, even when a pronoun replaces the noun phrase filling the direct object slot.
- The eagle stretched his talons out towards the water.
- The eagle stretched them out towards the water.
Sentence number 3 uses a prepositional verb. We can analyse the elements of this sentence:
Hungrily, the eagle looked for a meal.
A S V Od
The direct object in a sentence with a prepositional verb has to follow the preposition, so it cannot act in the same way as a phrasal verb, splitting the verb and particle.
- Hungrily, the eagle looked a meal for.
- Hungrily, the eagle looked it for.
Another difference between prepositional verbs and phrasal verbs is that an adverbial can split the verb and preposition in a preposition verb, even though the direct object cannot do this.
- The eagle looked hungrily for a meal.
Sentence number 4 is different in that the verb is followed by two prepositions. This is a phrasal-prepositional verb and it is always used transitively as a direct object has to follow the prepositional part of this verb.
The eagle put up with the wind patiently.
S V Od A
In a phrasal-prepositional verb, the first preposition is the phrasal part and the second preposition is the prepositional part. The rules stated above about adverbials apply to each part of these verbs. Adverbials cannot usually split the verb from the phrasal preposition, so we can't have:
- The eagle put patiently up with the wind.
- The eagle put up patiently with the wind.
- The eagle put up the wind with patiently.
There is no doubt that the flexibility of English, in enabling prepositions to be used in these types of structures, adds tremendously to the creativity of our language.