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Phrasal and prepositional verbs in translation.

Ph verbs are generally considered to be idiomatic combinations of a verb and of an adverbal particle ( get out, get up, take off, get along with etc). as an object of contrastive studies ph v don’t have a direct equivalent in Russian, although some of them can be compared to Russian prefixed verbs by their semantic functions.

The main function of ph v id  not only to denote actions or states as ordinary verb do, but also to indicate directional or attitudinal characteristics, such as temporal, qualitative. Thus for example there are ph verbs, which show the direction (take off, come up), duration (do on, carry on), completion of action ( end up, finish off). There are Russian verbal prefixes, which in different way display a wide range of meaning:

  • Direction (подходить,  подложить)
  • Adding up (поднажать, подтолкнуть)

More often than not the meaning of ph v cannot be dedused by summing up the meanings of its elements. That is why in translation we look for an entire undevided word rather than a verb with a synonymous prefix.


A looser connection between the verb and the second element is also observed in ‘It depends on my mood’ (это зависит от моего настроения), where the semantic link within the verbal phrase is not very tight. In such combinations the verb is usualle described as ‘prepositional’ due to a close link with the proposition following in the sentence, which in this case is called ‘a phrasal presosition’.

( there are 3 types of verbal combinations we deal with:

  • verb and an adverbal phrase /He was looking through the window/
  • a prepositional verb and a phrasial preposition / It depends on my mood/
  • a transitive phrasal verb including a phrasial adverb /The vegetables begged up on the farm and then sent out to the shop/).


R.A. Close and N. Coe use semantic criteria to distinguish between phrasal and prepositional verbs and define the former as idiomatic: ‘ the meaning is never a simple combination’ of the meanings of its parts. The term ‘prepositional verb’ is reserved for verbs of literal meaning ( look at, listen to, depend on) as distinct from ‘other verb-plus-preposition combination of less literal meaning (to come across smth, get along with), which are classified as phrasal verbs’. It follows that at the semantic level the distinction between the two is like a spectrum stretching from units of literal (usually directional) meaning to idiomatic ones whose meaning is metaphoric.

Our car broke down twice on the way home.

Two states broke away from the federation.

Their marriage broke up after ten years of marriage.

06.03.2016; 06:00
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