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 a hyphenated word:  revved-up; turned-on.

On the other hand, many words that are similar to the ones above are not verbs. Below, the verbs are underlined, and the word next to them is 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.

Testing for Two-Word Verbs

To see if a little word to the right of the main verb is also a verb, do the following:

  1. Start with the little word to be tested.

Santa wrinkled up his nose.

  1. Take it and the rest of that part of the sentence: Put it at the sentence’s beginning.

Up his nose, Santa wrinkled.

  1. If the sentence does not make sense, then the little word cannot be separated from the main one. The little word is also a verb.

In other words, you should think of wrinkled up as one word.

  1. If the sentence does make sense, then the little word can be separated from the main one. The little word is not a verb.

Santa went up the chimney.

Up the chimney, Santa went.  

“Up the chimney, Santa went” is awkward, but it does make sense. Therefore, up in this sentence is not a verb.

Class Activity

Prove if the underlined word is a verb or not a verb.
(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 had to do over his assignment.

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 G.’s lectures.

9. Corbett jumped in front of the ice skater.

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

Small Group Activity

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.

4.      Go ahead and eat before the food gets cold.

5.      The car swerved around the corner.

Two-Word Verb Concept for AP Students

Sometimes, one or more words separate the main verb and the little verb.  In that case, move the two words back together.  Then work the problem as before.

Her father gave her away at the wedding.

Away at the wedding her father gave her.      (Doesn’t make sense)

Gave away is a two-word verb.

When words come between the main verb and the little word, the sentence will sometimes make sense when you turn it around. 

I cut a picture out of the newspaper.

Out of the newspaper I cut a picture. 

This seems to make sense. To double-check, delete the extra words.

Out of the newspaper I cut. 

The result does not make sense. Cut out is a two-word verb.

Small Group Activity

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)

4.      I am giving up eating cookies on January 1st.          (4)

5.      My math homework was so difficult that I gave up. (3)

Individual or Small Group Activity

Complete the exercise:   Netherlands