The key difference between verb phrase and phrasal verb is that the verb phrase refers to a verb that has more than one word whereas the phrasal verb refers to a verb followed by a preposition or an adverb.
Both verb phrase and phrasal verb contain a main verb and words that support it. Verb phrases contain auxiliary verbs and modal verbs in addition to the main verb whereas phrasal verbs contain prepositions or adverbs.
What is a Verb Phrase?
A verb phrase contains the main verb and some more helping words that can indicate tense, mood, or person. In brief, a verb phrase is a verb that contains more than one word. We can note auxiliary verbs and modal verbs in a verb phrase in addition to the main verb.
Auxiliary Verb – help express its mood, tense, and voice. Examples: Be (am, is, are), Do (do, does), Have (has, have, had)
Modal Verb – indicate modality – permission, ability, and obligation, etc. Examples: can, must, will, shall, etc.
Let’s look at some examples of verb phrases now:
He can sing really well.
They are going to Paris tomorrow.
She couldn’t understand the lesson.
You should have been with them.
I will never lie again.
A verb phrase can have up to four words. However, adverbs that occur in the middle of a verb phrase are not parts of a verb phrase. For example, look at the last example sentence. There, never is an adverb, but it is not a part of the verb phrase.
Moreover, the main verb usually occurs at the end of the phrase. When a verb phrase contains both a modal verb and an auxiliary verb, the modal verb always comes before the auxiliary verb.
What is a Phrasal Verb?
A phrasal verb is a verb that consists of a verb and another element. This other element that follows the main verb is typically a preposition or an adverb. This addition of the other element can also change the meaning of the verb. For example, the word count means to determine the total sum, but the addition of the preposition on makes the phrasal verb count on, which means to rely on something or someone.
A phrasal verb can be either transitive or intransitive. Transitive phrasal verbs have two categories as separable phrasal verbs and inseparable phrasal verbs according to the position of their objects. In separable phrasal verbs, the object can occur between the verb and preposition/adverb. For example,
Please turn the volume down.
I talked him into helping me.
That movie really turned me off.
In inseparable phrasal verbs, the verb and preposition/adverb occur together. The object occurs after the whole phrasal verb.
He still hasn’t got over his wife’s death.
I don’t think she takes after her mother.
No one tried to break up the fight.
What is the Difference Between Verb Phrase and Phrasal Verb?
A verb phrase is a verb that has more than one word whereas a phrasal verb is a verb followed by a preposition or an adverb. This is the key difference between verb phrase and phrasal verb. Further, most importantly, a verb phrase has modal or auxiliary verbs in addition to the main verb whereas phrasal verb contains prepositions and adverbs. Moreover, a verb phrase has more than one verb whereas phrasal verb has only one verb. A verb phrase can typically have up to four words whereas a phrasal verb typically has only two words. The below infographic presents the difference between verb phrase and phrasal verb in tabular form.
Summary – Verb Phrase vs Phrasal Verb
Although the two terms verb phrase and phrasal verbs look similar, they are not the same. A verb phrase refers to a verb that has more than one word whereas a phrasal verb refers to a verb followed by a preposition or an adverb. This is the key difference between verb phrase and phrasal verb. Phrases like has been, is going, can go, should have been, etc. are some examples of verb phrases whereas turn down, pull over, look over, etc. are examples of phrasal verbs.