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How can I find out which prepositions or particles can follow a verb?
Many verb combinations are easy to understand because you can work out their meanings from those of the individual verbs + prepositions (or verbs + particles). An example is: Put the dish down = Place the dish in a lower position. At other times, the combinations are more difficult to understand. An example is: Cholera broke out in that country. The verb break does not have the meaning it has in phrases like break a window. And out does not mean 'outside in the open'. The combination has to be understood as one unit. When a verb + particle or verb + preposition is a unit of meaning like this, it is a phrasal verb. The absolute best way to find out what prepositions or particles can follow a verb is to buy a dictionary of phrasal verbs. Not only will you find out what works together, but you will have the definitions of these combinations, and examples of usage. The same combination of words may be used in a variety of grammatical structures. One example is ran up in: A girl ran up to him. / The spider ran up the wall. / The soldier ran up a flag. These sentence patterns are all quite different, even though the meanings are related. In a phrasal verb dictionary, you will be presented with the possible structures for each phrasal verb. Another excellent source is a grammar book, like Applied English Grammar (Byrd, Patricia, Beverly Benson, Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt College Publishers, 2001) or Grammar in Context (Elbaum, Sandra, Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle, 2001). There may be some verb + preposition lists online (e.g., http://www.english-zone.com), but you may not be able to ascertain whether such a list is correct or complete. However, a collegiate or unabridged dictionary will also provide guidance about what prepositions work with a verb. For phrasal verbs, many will be defined in separate entries, e.g., "break out." Or a combination like "ran up" will be handled as a run-on to the main entry for "run," usually by defining it and offering an illustrative example which includes the preposition "up," e.g.: to spread or pass quickly from point to point --chills "ran up" her spine. A phrasal verb is also called verb-particle construction, verb phrase, multi-word verb, compound verb, or two- or three-part verb.