• Come Back, Baby Come Back: Learning About Intransitive Phrasal Verbs With UB40

    When I say intransitive phrasal verbs you might not know what I am talking about, but you are likely to have heard them in a million songs.

    Some examples of song titles including intransitive phrasal verbs are Come Back by UB40, Wake Up by Rage Against The Machine and Kanye West’s Run Away to name but a few.

    What are intransitive phrasal verbs?

    Firstly, let’s refresh. Phrasal verbs are two-part verbs including a verb and adverb or verb and preposition.

    Intransitive phrasal verbs are popular in song lyrics because they are easy to use. They are not followed by an object.

    However, my students seem to make most mistakes with this kind of phrasal verbs. Why is that? Could it be that they are overcomplicating something that is really quite straightforward? 

    Intransitive phrasal verbs always follow the same pattern.

    Subject (followed by) verb (followed by) participle.

    Here are some examples:

    John came over yesterday.

    The car broke down this morning.

    We ate out for my birthday. 

    A list of intransitive phrasal verbs

    Come back/to/into/on,

    Check up,

    Drop out,

    Fall off,

    Find out,

    Fill in,

    Get along,

    Grow up,

    Pick up,

    Pull through,

    Stand up,

    Shut up,

    Show up/off

    Wake up,

    Wear out.


    1. Can you think of any more intransitive phrasal verbs?
    2. Which of the song titles below include intransitive phrasal verbs?

    Call on me by Janet Jackson.

    Waiting On The World To Change by John Mayer.

    Ran Into You Yesterday by John Legend.

    Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out by Freak Power.

    Check Out by Nicki Minaj.

    As we ponder the answers, let’s enjoy a classic intransitive phrasal verb pop reggae classic, UB40’s Come Back.

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