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Compound Verb






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All You Need to Know About Compound Verbs

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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What is a compound verb?

A compound verb can have one base verb and one auxiliary verb or multiple base verbs and auxiliaries. Compound verb examples can be traced easily in our day-to-today communication. 

The base word is the main verb in your sentence; it determines how each word will be used in forming sentences with other parts of speech such as adverbs and conjunctions. 

For example: “I study English every day,” contains an active voice passive voice (active voice = subject = do + past participle) where I stands for “I” while studying stands for active meaning I am doing something (e.g., studying English). 

The other part of this sentence—the auxiliary—modifies how we use our first two words by adding meaning like if someone said “I study English every day,” they would mean they do so every single day even though there isn’t any direct command given here because no one told them “do something” directly.

Differences between Simple Verbs and Compound Verbs

Simple verbs are straightforward to use and comprehend, and they don’t need any more phrases to explain what they mean.

A compound verb on the other hand, A verb that is composed of two or more words and describes a single action or state of being. 

Compound verbs are created by fusing one or more auxiliary verbs or particles with a primary verb. Because they can specify the duration, mode, or intensity of an action or state of being, compound verbs are able to communicate a more nuanced meaning than simple verbs.

Since these verbs can give a statement greater delicacy and complexity, compound verbs are frequently utilized in writing that is more formal.

Some  compound verb examples include: has been sleeping, will have eaten.

Simple Verbs and  compound verb examples in sentences:

  • Simple verb: He walks to school every day.

Compound verb: He has been walking to school every day for a month.

  • Simple verb: The dog barks loudly.

Compound verb: The dog will have been barking loudly for an hour when we arrive.

  • Simple verb: She sings beautifully.

Compound verb: She is going to be singing beautifully at the concert tonight.

Type of Compound Verbs

Phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are compound verbs made up of a verb and another grammatical component, most frequently an adverb or a preposition. Phrasal verbs, in contrast to prepositional verbs, frequently have idiomatic meanings that are distinct from the meanings of the constituent words that make them up. For instance, the verb bring indicates to transport something, and the adverb/preposition up frequently denotes “to a more elevated position.” However, the phrasal verb bring up can refer to raising a kid, bringing up a subject, or throwing up. The compound verb’s meaning is entirely distinct from that of its constituent parts.

Phrasal verbs, unlike prepositional verbs, can either be separable or inseparable. An indivisible phrasal verb cannot be divided into separate parts and yet make sense grammatically. For instance, the verb “take back” can be used both ways; it is acceptable to say both He took his hat back from the butler and He took it back from the butler. However, the words cut across and across are synonymous, as shown in the line We cut across the street, which makes sense but not We cut the street across.

Prepositional verbs

Compound verbs that combine a verb and a preposition are called prepositional verbs. Prepositional verbs frequently maintain the literal meanings of the individual words that make them up, unlike the next sort of verb we’ll look at. For instance, the preposition to might denote connection or direction when used with the verb converse, which indicates to communicate with someone. Both the literal meanings of talk and to are maintained by the prepositional verb talk to, which implies to communicate with someone.

Prepositional verbs often do not split out and are followed by an object, unlike our following sort of verb, which does. For instance, we might say I laughed at the humorous clown rather than I laughed at the humorous clown.

Two-word compound verbs

A base verb and a particle are combined to make two-word compound verbs, which have a new verb with a distinct meaning. The particle could be a preposition or an adverb. There are several examples, such as “pick up,” “take off,” and “look over.”

Three-Word Compound Verbs

In order to generate a new verb with a different meaning, three-word compound verbs are created by joining a base verb with a particle and a preposition. For instance, “get away with,” “come up with,” and “look forward to.”

Four-word compound verbs

In order to generate a new verb with a different meaning, four-word compound verbs are created by joining a base verb with two particles and a preposition. Examples include “look down on,” “keep up with,” and “get rid of.”

Separable and Inseparable verbs

Some compound verbs can have their parts separated so that they can be used in different parts of the sentence. Other compound verbs are inseparable, which means that the basic verb and particle cannot be separated. Verbs that may be separated include “turn on” and “put away,” but verbs that cannot be separated include “understand” and “enjoy.”

Formation of Compound Verbs

Compound verbs can be formed in several ways. Here are some common methods:

Using Verb + Preposition:

 In this method, a verb is combined with a preposition to create a new meaning. For example: “look up”, “give in”, “break out”, “put off”.

Other compound verb examples:

  • Look up: She looked up the word in the dictionary.
  • Give in: The suspect gave in to the police after a long standoff.
  • Break out: The prisoners broke out of jail last night.
  • Put off: We put off the meeting until next week.

Using Verb + Adverb: 

In this method, a verb is combined with an adverb to create a new meaning. For example: “walk slowly”, “run quickly”, “talk loudly”.

Other Examples:

  • Walk slowly: The old man walked slowly across the street.
  • Run quickly: The athlete ran quickly to the finish line.
  • Talk loudly: The speaker talked loudly to be heard over the crowd.

Using Verb + Verb: 

In this method, two verbs are combined to create a new meaning. For example: “eat out”, “sleepwalk”, “kick-start”.

Other examples:

  • Sleepwalk: He used to sleepwalk when he was a child.
  • Kick-start: The new program aims to kick-start economic growth in the region.

List of Common Compound verb examples

Two-word verbs

  • Break up
  • Bring up
  • Cut off
  • Come back
  • Give up
  • Look up
  • Make up
  • Pick up
  • Run away
  • Set up

Three-word verbs

  • Catch up with
  • Come up with
  • Get away with
  • Look forward to
  • Put up with
  • Take care of
  • Think about
  • Turn into
  • Watch out for
  • Work out for

Tips for Using Compound Verbs Effectively

  1. Compound verbs can help you make your writing more intriguing and engaging by introducing variation to your sentence patterns. Use them to bring complexity and variety to your writing.

  2. Use compound verbs to paint a clear picture in the reader’s mind: By merging several acts or descriptions into a single verb, compound verbs can assist in painting a clearer picture in the reader’s mind.

  3. Be aware of each component’s meaning while using a compound verb: while using a compound verb, it’s crucial to take into account each component’s meaning and how they combine to provide a new meaning. This will make it easier for you to write clearly and accurately.
Compound Verb Infographic

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Key Takeaways

  1. Words that combine two or more common verbs into a single word are known as compound verbs.

  2. They have a basic verb and one or more auxiliary verbs, and they can be employed in the present, past, or future tense.

  3. Phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs are the two categories of compound verbs.

  4. Prepositional verbs keep the literal meanings of the words that make them up, but phrasal verbs have idiomatic meanings and can be either detachable or inseparable.

  5. Adjectives can function as nouns in addition to producing new compounds, and compound verbs can be employed to make compound nouns.

  6. When employing compound verbs, common mistakes include utilizing the wrong tense and singular or plural form.


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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I identify Compound Verbs in a sentence?

To identify Compound Verbs in a sentence, look for verb phrases that consist of multiple verbs working together to express a single action or meaning.

Are there any rules for using Compound Verbs?

Yes, there are some rules for using Compound Verbs:

  • Maintain subject-verb agreement.
  • Ensure verb tense consistency
  • Follow proper word order
Are there any exercises or activities to help me understand compound verbs better?

Absolutely! Engaging in exercises and activities can enhance your understanding of compound verbs. Edulyte provides experienced English tutors who can assist you in grasping this concept effectively. Our tutors can offer personalized guidance, grammar exercises, sentence analysis, and provide relevant examples.

How can you tell the difference between a compound verb and an adjective?

Compound verbs are formed by adding the suffixes -ing and -ed to the root of a verb. A compound verb has one or more words in it.

How do Compound Verbs affect sentence structure?
  • By condensing several verbs into one word, they can lengthen and complicate phrases.

  • By combining normal verbs with adverbs or prepositions to form phrasal or prepositional verbs, they can give a statement more meaning.

  • By introducing auxiliary verbs to base verbs, they can alter the tense of a sentence.

  • By incorporating active or passive sentence constructs with auxiliary verbs, they can also change the voice of a sentence.
Can Compound Verbs be used in all tenses?

Yes, compound verbs can be used in all tenses. No matter the tense past, present or future, it has no bearing on the compound verbs. 

Are all compound verbs separable?

No, not all compound verbs are separable. Some compound verbs are inseparable, meaning that the verb and particle cannot be separated.

How do I know if a compound verb is separable or inseparable?

You can usually tell if a compound verb is separable or inseparable by looking at the position of the particle or particles in the sentence. If the particle comes after the object of the verb, the verb is usually separable. If the particle comes before the object, the verb is usually inseparable.

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