Compound Verb

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Understanding English Compound Verbs

COMPOUND VERBS, also called VERB SEQUENCES, usually consists of conjunctive participle + inflected verb combined together to behave as a unit.

  • The first member in a compound verb, which is called the main verb, contributes the basic lexical meaning of the compound.
  • The second member known as vector verb, loses its own primary meaning to a greater or lesser degree and specifies the manner of an action or event.

The compound may have a new meaning of its own which cannot be inferred from the primary meanings of the verbs in the compound. The class of vector verbs usually includes go, come, give, take, fall, rise, throw, put, and sit.

Forms of Compound Verbs

Based on this, there are four types of compound verbs which includes:
  1. Prepositional Verb

    A prepositional verbOpens in new window is a combination of a verbOpens in new window and a prepositionOpens in new window to form a new word. Prepositional verbs may not be separated within a sentence, i.e., ‘apply for’, ‘add to’, ‘care for’, ‘result in’, ‘deal with’, ‘long for’, etc.

    Examples include:
    • Andy has applied for many job posts recently.
    • They all counted on him to deliver the services.
  2. Phrasal Verb

    A phrasal verbOpens in new window consists of a verb and another element, usually a preposition or adverb that creates a distinct meaning.

    The resulting combination usually amounts to a new verb which does not retain its literal meaning.

    Examples include:
    • My vehicle broke down on the highway: broke + down (spoilt, or developed fault.)
    • I can’t believe anything he says, he is fond of making up stories: making + up (telling lies)
  3. Verb using Auxiliaries

    Some verbs rely on helping or auxiliary verbsOpens in new window to function effectively. These verbs combine a helping verb such as: ‘have’, ‘had’, ‘has’, ‘is’ ‘am’ ‘was’, ‘are’, ‘be’, ‘were’, etc. to make a desired meaning.

    Examples include:
    • The car was found abandoned
    • Andy has gone back home
  4. Compound Single-Word Verb

    A compound single-word verb is when a compound word, whether separated by a hyphen or not, functions as the verb.

    Examples include:
    • Andy can be annoying at times, especially when he with-holds helpful information.
    • I had to pull over at the way because my car was over-heating again.

Examples showing Sentences with compound verbs:

    • Karl Creelman bicycled around the world in 1899, but his diaries and his bicycle were destroyed.

    The compound verb in this sentence is made up of the auxiliary “were” and the past participle “destroyed”.

    • The book Gretchen was looking for is under the sofa.

    Here the compound verb is made up of the auxiliary verb “was” and the present participle “looking”.

    • They will meet us at the newest café in the market.

    In this example the compound verb is made up of the auxiliary verb “will” and the verb “meet”.

    • That dog has been barking for three hours; I wonder if someone will call the owner.

    In this sentence the first compound verb is made up of the two auxiliary verbs (“has” and “been”) and a present participle (“barking”). The second compound verb is made up of the auxiliary verb “will” and the verb “call.”

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  • References
    • The Teacher's Grammar of English with Answers: A Course Book and Reference Guide Prepositional Verbs (Pg 175-177) By Ron Cowan.

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