Two-Word Verbs

Two-Word Verbs

Some verbs consist of two words.  For example:

    1. Johnnie revved up his motorcycle.
    2. Susan turned on the light.
    3. Malito stirred in the raisins.
    4. Margarita clammed up about the broken window.
    5. Pedro horses around too much.
    6. Veronica touched up her makeup.
    7. Bosco let out the cat.

Think of such verbs as being hooked together, as if they are magnetized. That is, think of them as one word.

On the other hand, many words are not verbs, even though they are similar to the ones above. Below, the verbs are underlined, and the word next to them are boldfaced. The boldfaced words are not verbs.

    1. The mouse fell into the pot.
    2. Helen walked up the stairs.
    3. Delmonico sailed along the coast.
    4. Winifred flew away on the wind.
    5. The boys wrestled on the beach.
    6. The spaceship went behind the moon.
    7. The leaves drifted into our yard.

Two-Word Verbs

The verb often also magnetizes little words to the right. You can tell if a little word is magnetized because, starting with that word, you cannot turn the sentence around.

    • Start with the word to be tested.
    • Take it and the rest of that part of the sentence: put it at the sentence’s beginning.
    • If the sentence does not make sense, then the word is magnetized and is a verb.


Santa wrinkled up his nose.

You cannot separate wrinkled and up.

Therefore, they are one word.

Up his nose Santa wrinkled.

You cannot turn the sentence around: Up his nose Santa wrinkled.

That means up is magnetized and cannot separate from the verb.

Not a verb:

Santa went up the chimney.

You can separate went and up.

Therefore, they are two words.

Up the chimney Santa went.

You can turn the sentence around: Up the chimney Santa went.

That means that the word up in this sentence is not magnetized.

Two-Word Verbs Assignment 1

Prove if the underlined word is a verb or not a verb.

(Hint: try turning the sentence around, beginning with the underlined word.)

1. Mrs. Crenshaw told me to figure out the square root of pi.

2. Winslow revved up his motorcycle engine every morning just to upset his neighbor.

3. The county fair kicked off with a great performance by local musicians.

4. Johnnie passed out when he saw his little sister get a shot.

5. We partied until dawn.

6. Betty Lou pigged out on sweets at the county fair.

7. Judy jacked up the car.

8. I often nod off during Professor Guthridge’s lectures.

9. Corbett jumped in front of the ice skater.

9. Billy Jo passed out before being hit in the boxing match.

Two-Word Verbs Assignment 2

The number of verbs in the following sentences are in parenthesis.  Find them.

1. Joanie and I will go out for pizza this evening.  (2)

2. Our best player struck out in the ninth inning.   (2)

3. He has set up the decorations for the party.       (3)

Two-Word Verbs Assignment 3

How many verbs are in each of the following?

1. I am about to clean up my room for the first time in two years.

2. Bob forgot to pick up bread for dinner.

3. The panel shot down Natalia’s idea.