Phrasal verbs

Splitting Phrasal Verbs

A little while ago, I was asked to write a little bit about phrasal verbs. I thought that was an amazing topic so, I did. Then, a week later, as destiny would have it, I was asked about splitting phrasal verbs with nouns and pronouns.

This is something I see many learners make mistakes with and that’s when I thought I’d pay some attention to it. Therefore, in today’s post, I would like to dedicate some time to the grammatical side of phrasal verbs and how to split them.

How to Split Phrasal Verbs

In the post of a few weeks ago, I explained that phrasal verbs consist of a verb and a particle. For example, «to pick up». «Pick» would be the verb and «up» is the particle. So, when we are speaking about splitting phrasal verbs, these are the parts that we can separate.


Nouns are used to identify people, places or things (common nouns) or the names of these (proper nouns).  A great example of this is the word «kids».

In respect to phrasal verbs, nouns can be used in a flexible manner. What I mean by that is that the noun can be placed in different locations. It can be placed both before and after the particle. Meaning that you can indeed split the phrasal verb but it’s not obligatory.

This means that saying the following things are both correct:

  • I pick up the kids
  • I pick the kids up


Pronouns are the little words that we tend to use to replace nouns in sentences. Some examples are “you”, “I” and “them”.

Unlike nouns, pronouns are not flexible in their use. The only location where we can use the pronoun is within the phrasal verb. This means that independent of the actual pronoun, it has to go in between the verb and the particle, it is always slit.

This means that “I pick up them” is never a correct sentence. The correct sentence is “I pick them up”.

The Rule

Now that we have given some examples, here is the rule:

    • When we use a noun: we can choose to split the phrasal verb but we can also place the noun behind it.
    • When we use a pronoun: You have to split the phrasal verb and place it between the verb and particle.

General Advice

As I do understand that the rule can be a little bit confusing, my general advice is to always split the phrasal verb in two as, in that way, you will never be wrong. It makes English that much easier to actually use.

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