Phrasal verbs

Hello, our teachers. I need your help. 

With regard to the phrasal verbs, the rule says:

"If the object is a pronoun (such as it, him, her, them), then the object always comes between the verb and the adverb.


https://en.oxforddictionaries....rammar/phrasal-verbs

- He received a job offer, but he turned it down.

That's what I've explained to my students.

The following sentence is excerpted from the book I teach (Aim high 6):

"When it comes to traits like the colour of your eyes or your blood type, it is clear that genetics alone accounts for them."

Why did "them" come after the particle?

 

Each word you'll type is greatly appreciated. 

Original Post

Hello, Hussein,

You should explain to your students that there are three types of multi-word verbs:

  • Phrasal verbs
  • Prepositional verbs
  • Phrasal prepositional verbs

The rule you mention about placing the pronoun between the verb and the adverbial particle applies to phrasal verbs, but not to prepositional verbs.

How are they to be differentiated? If you need to make a pause (expressed as "/" below), the pause will come between verb and preposition in the case of prepositional verbs, which shows how much the object is attached to the preposition:

- Look / at the picture -> Look at it.

In the case of phrasal verbs, the pause will come after the particle, which shows the strong liaison between verb and particle:

- Turn on / the lights -> Turn them on.

Finally, we have the phrasal prepositional verbs, which will behave like prepositionals:

- Put up / with the pressure -> Put up with it.

Hussein,

Thanks for providing the link to your source for the rule.  That made it much easier to answer your question.

The source says:

A phrasal verb is a verb that is made up of a main verb together with an adverb or a preposition, or both.

It goes on to say:

If the object is a pronoun ... then the object always comes between the verb and the adverb

What it doesn't make clear is that this applies only when non-verb part of the phrasal verb is an adverb alone.

They do give the example:

She has always looked down on me.

I have copied this exactly as they have it, but despite what their emphasis implies, I'll say that the phrasal verb is actually "has always looked down on", where the actual verb part is "has always looked" and the other part consists of both an adverb ("down") and a preposition ("on").  Because of the preposition, the pronoun "me" follows the entire phrasal verb.  We can't say:

*She has always looked me down on.

In your example, there is no adverb in the phrasal verb.  It consists of a verb ("accounts") and a preposition ("for").  The pronoun must follow the preposition.

DocV

Thank you so much, Gustavo for your quick reply and the information you provided.

Thanks a lot, DocV. You've mentioned a useful piece of information (for me) wasn't clear in my book nor the link I've cited, but I have another question:

You said that:

"The pronoun must follow the preposition.", right? 

Gustavo mentioned an example of a phrasal verb that is made up with a verb and a preposition, but the particle (the preposition) comes BEFORE the pronoun.

"Turn the lights on." or "Turn them on."

I know that "on" can be used as a preposition and an adverb. If it's a preposition in Gustavo's example, then (from my point of view which will be wrong), you contradict each other.

If it's an adverb, how can I know that "on" (as a particle) is a preposition or an adverb?

 

I'm so grateful for both of you. 

Hussein,

You wrote:

Gustavo mentioned an example of a phrasal verb that is made up with a verb and a preposition, but the particle (the preposition) comes BEFORE the pronoun.

This is true.  The preposition must always come before the pronoun.  This is the same as saying that the pronoun must follow the preposition.

As you say, "on" can be either a preposition or an adverb.  It can also be an adjective meaning "in operation", as in:

a: The lights are on.

In these examples:

b: Turn the lights on.
c: Turn on the lights.
d: Turn them on.

"on" is an adverb meaning "to the 'on' position" or "to the setting which makes them operational".

In order for "on" to be a preposition, the sentence would have to mean:

c': Turn when you are on the lights.

which doesn't make a lot of sense in my mind.  But with this meaning, (b) and (d) would be incorrect, and "them" could substitute for "the lights" in (c) with no change in word order:

e: —What should I do when I am on the lights?
—Turn on them.

DocV

Clarification:

When I wrote "this is true" in my last post, I was referring only to the phrase "the particle (the preposition) comes BEFORE the pronoun".  Gustavo never referred to "on" in the "lights" examples as a preposition.

DocV

Hello, everybody: This is a great thread. The only thing I wish to add to it is some further terminological clarification, just in case any confusion remains:

1. A particle is an adverbial particle.
2. A preposition is not a particle/adverbial particle.
3. A phrasal verb is not a prepositional verb.

"Turn on the lights" can mean two things. One thing it can mean is what it basically always means, on which reading "on" is a particle. The other thing it can mean is alternate meaning DocV has drawn attention to, on which reading "on" is a preposition.

When "turn on the lights" means what it always means (compare: "Turn off your computer, and then turn it back on"), if "the lights" is replaced with a pronoun ("them"), the pronoun MUST precede "on," which again is a particle on this reading.  "Turn them on" is grammatical. *"Turn on them" is ungrammatical.

light switch

When "Turn on them" is grammatical, "on" is being used as a preposition, not as a particle, and has that other meaning, which DocV has described. Perhaps a stage dancer could be given the direction to "turn on the lights," just as you could tell a ballerina: "Do a pirouette on the floor lights. The audience will love it."

ballerina

But again, Hussein, "Turn on the lights" never means that. It is simply a theoretical possibility which has been presented for your amusement and edification. If your students are not extremely advanced, they should not even be told about "Turn on them" (which for them should be *"Turn on them").

As Gustavo wonderfully explained, when "on" is a particle in "turn on," the two words are phonologically paired, such that you could pause slightly between "turn on" and "the lights." With the (theoretically possible) preposition reading, the slight pause would have to occur between "turn" and "on the lights."

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David, thank you for this contribution.

I was using the broader definition of "phrasal verb" that Hussein's source uses.  I should have considered the fact that, despite its connection with Oxford University Press, this source (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/) has provided wrong or misleading information to our members in the past, notably in this thread, which was also originated by Hussein Hassan:

Can VS Could

Of course, I would never advocate using "on" as a preposition in the context of lights as demonstrated in (c') and (e).  Rather, I was attempting to answer Hussein's question

how can I know that "on" (as a particle) is a preposition or an adverb?

by showing that, in the context of lights (as well as machines, radios, and anything else with a power switch), understanding "on" as a preposition leads to absurd results.

It is possible, however, to use "turn on" in a context where "on" is a preposition and its object is a person or persons:

f: Suddenly and unexpectedly, he turned on his friends.
g: I was shocked and dismayed when he turned on them.

Here, it means that he betrayed them or lashed out at them.

DocV

Doc V posted:
It is possible, however, to use "turn on" in a context where "on" is a preposition and its object is a person or persons:

f: Suddenly and unexpectedly, he turned on his friends.
g: I was shocked and dismayed when he turned on them.

Here, it means that he betrayed them or lashed out at them.

Excellent point, DocV. This illustrates how important context can be to grammar. If one has no idea at all what the antecedent of "them" is in "turn on them," one can't say whether the construction is good, ridiculous, or outright ungrammatical.

Indeed,when "them" is human, there is yet another possibility, one which I probably shouldn't define, and which may not be healthy to Google. While "turn on them" signifies betrayal, "turn them on" means something else entirely! 

That said, as soon as we know that we are talking about lights and switches and so forth, things become much clearer. Presumably Hussein's students will have some clue about the context of discourse, and he can guide them from there.

David, 

Thank you very much for your contribution and the advanced information you always think about.

 

DocV,

I was a mistaken when I said:

"Gustavo mentioned an example of a phrasal verb that is made up with a verb and a preposition, but the particle (the preposition) comes BEFORE the pronoun." referring to the light's example.

- Turn them on

I was a mistaken because "ON" isn't a preposition, and I should have said:

"...... comes AFTER the pronoun."  

 

Just to sum up what we have discussed, I should tell my students that:

1. If the object is a pronoun, then the object always comes between the verb and the adverbial particle.

- "Put down your pen." OR "Put your pen down." OR "Put them down."

 

2. If the object is a pronoun, then the object always comes after the preposition.

- The gene they discovered today doesn't account for all those cases." OR "The gene they discovered today doesn't account for them."

 

I'm in a loss of words to express my sense of gratitude to ALL of you. thanks for your help. 

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