What is a subject and an object?
Every verb needs to have a subject (unless it's an imperative (an order)). It's the part of the sentence that says what does the verb and always goes in front of the verb, for example,
He eats crisps.
In the above example, He is the subject. The thing that does the action of eating. It's impossible (with the exception of verbs used as orders) to have a verb without a subject. The subject can either be a noun (Sally, the car, cats etc...) or a subject pronoun (I, you, he, she, it, we, they).
The object is the noun or object that receives the action of the verb and always goes after the verb, for example,
He eats crisps.
In the above example, crisps is the object. In English, objects always go after the verb. The object can either be a noun (Sally, the car, cats etc...) or an object pronoun (me, you, him, her, it, us, them).
Not all verbs need an object
But unlike subjects, which every verb and phrasal verb need in English, not all verbs need an object to be correct. In fact, there are many verbs where the use of an object after the verb is incorrect, for example,
The plane takes off.
The phrasal verb 'to take off' in this context means when a plane leaves an airport. It has a subject 'the plane', but doesn't have an object. In English, we call this type of verb/phrasal verb an intransitive verb. In dictionaries, these verbs are indicated by the following symbol vi.
Now let's look at the same phrasal verb, but this time it has a different meaning:
I took off my jacket.
In this case the meaning is to remove clothing. The phrasal verb 'to take off' has both a subject 'I' and an object 'my jacket'. In English, we call this type of verb/phrasal verb a transitive verb. In dictionaries, these verbs are indicated by the following symbol vt.
The 4 Types of Phrasal Verbs
Although most learners of English think that phrasal verbs are completely illogical and disorganised, there are rules for using them correctly. In fact, there are 4 different grammatical structures for using phrasal verbs. In this exercise we will look at the first two:
Type 1 Phrasal Verbs: Intransitive with one particle
As we saw above, there are phrasal verbs that never have an object after them. For example:
'Last night, I didn't stay at home. I went out.'
'He checked out of the hotel before 10am.'
In the above examples, neither of the phrasal verbs have an object directly after them. In the second example, there is a separate preposition 'of' that connects the phrasal verb 'to check out' to the object 'the hotel'. It is not possible to have the object directly after this phrasal verb with the meaning of 'to leave a hotel'. For example, 'He checked out the hotel before 10am' is incorrect.
Remember, with this type of phrasal verb, if you want to connect it to an object, you need to use a separate preposition that is not part of the phrasal verb, e.g.
The plane took off from Heathrow.
In this example the preposition 'from' is not part of the intransitive phrasal verb 'to take off' and is used to connect it to the noun 'Heathrow'.
So, Type 1 phrasal verbs are intransitive and the verb only has one particle.
Type 2 Phrasal Verbs: Transitive and inseparable with one particle
This is a phrasal verb that always has an object that directly follows it. The object is always a noun or an object pronoun (me, you, him, her, it, us, them). This is formed by a verb and one particle. For example:
'You do know that I care about you a lot!'
'My grandparents looked after my cousin after her parents died.'
In both of the above examples, the object comes directly after the phrasal verbs. It is not possible to use these types of phrasal verbs without an object. Also, you can not separate the verb and the particle with the object. For example 'You do know that I care you about a lot', is incorrect.
So, Type 2 phrasal verbs are transitive, with a verb and only have one particle, and are inseparable.
So now do the below quiz to make sure you are using phrasal verbs correctly when you write or speak in English.