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ISSN : 1226-3206(Print)
Studies in Modern Grammar Vol.100 pp.41-63

English Phrasal Verbs Are Not Primitives

Kyungchul Chang**
** Professor, Pusan National University


It has been generally assumed that phrasal verbs in English are primitive in nature, either as a base form or as a derived form. Even the latest studies posit that the alternative surface forms of a transitive phrasal verb such as take out in take the trash out and take out the trash are constructed from that phrasal verb itself by verb movement. This paper argues that phrasal verbs are not purely primitives but possibly derivatives. They can be derived from their reverse combinations, what we call particle verbs. The paper supports this argument by examining a set of transitive particle verbs in English, e.g. downplay in downplay the incident. It also uses the notion of verb movement and proposes a unified analysis of both the particle verbs and their V-P alternants such as play down the incident and play the incident down.