Thursday, July 19, 2007

Phrasal verbs: Spelling

Once you learn phrasal verbs, you learn other English words as well. Many nouns and adjectives are formed from phrasal verbs. For example, hand out means to give things to different people in a group, while the corresponding noun handout refers to the piece of paper with information on it that is given to this group of people (generally students in a classroom). Or, look at the phrasal verb speak out (to state your opinion firmly and publicly about something), and notice its relationship with the adjective outspoken (expressing strong opinions very directly without worrying if other people are offended).

What are the spelling rules for these kind of verbs? Unfortunately, there are no clear or set spelling rules. Sometimes they are two words, sometimes hyphenated (-), sometimes combined as one word. Here are some guidelines that you can follow:
  • verb + particle (phrasal verb) = two words: make up, look over
  • particle + verb (verb) = one word: download, overlook
  • verb + particle (nouns) = one word or hyphenated: make-up/makeup, carryout/carry-out
  • particle + verb (nouns) = one word: input, downloading
  • verb + particle (adjectives) = hyphenated: jazzed-up, made-up
  • particle + verb (adjectives) = hyphenated or one word: ongoing, off-putting

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