I found something on this webpage: “get back from” is stated to be either:

  1. Inseparable, meaning return from somewhere, or

  2. Separable, meaning receive something originally lent to another person.

But there are no examples provided, so I try and make sentences myself like the following. Could you please check them if they are correct or incorrect?

  • Inseparable
  1. I get back from the bathroom.
  • Separable
  1. I get my book back from John.

  2. I get it back from John.

  3. I get back my book from John.

  4. I get back it from John.

3 Answers 3


Separable phrasal verbs are the ones that can take direct objects (transitive). Direct objects in the second example is my book and it.

While inseparable phrasal verbs are the ones that cannot take direct objects (intransitive). That would be the first example.

In your question, the first example seems right to me.

In the set of the second example, that would be separable phrasal verbs that have direct objects (my book and it). Take a look at this rule for separating multi-word phrasal verbs.

So, the first three sentences are in correct English. Although I sense that the third sentence sounds a bit weird to me. But it's still grammatically right based on the link I provide you and this additional one.

Meanwhile, the fourth sentence is literally wrong, since it has a pronoun (the it) that always comes between the verb (get) and the particle (back+from).

So, I summarize the correct examples for you [Better in past tense anyway]:

  • I got back from the bathroom.

  • I got my book back from John.

  • I got it back from John.

  • I got back my book from John.


I'm afraid your source is wrong.

The collocation get back from is not a three-word verb in either sense. Both are two-word verbs, and from is not a necessary part of the idiom but simply the head of a preposition phrase which expresses the origin or source.

  • get back = return (intransitive)

    I got back yesterday. ... I got back yesterday [from New York].
    Get back to where you once belonged. ... Get back [from where you are now] to where you once belonged.

  • get back = recover (transitive)

    I'm getting my book back. ... I'm getting my book back [from John].
    I got back everything that was stolen. ... I got back [from the police] everything that was stolen.

The from piece is not merely separable but entirely detachable. In fact, that last example shows that you have to be very careful where you put it—this means something entirely different:

I got back everything that was stolen from the police.

In that position, the from piece means that the stuff in question was stolen from the police, not that you got it back from the police.

Ordinarily, you should consider only the collocation get back in deciding where your Direct Object should fall. If the DO’s a single pronoun it must follow the verb get.

I got it back.

If it’s a brief NP it usually follows the verb but may follow the particle back.

I got my book back.
I got back my book.

If it’s a ‘heavy’ (long) NP it should follow the particle.

I got back both the Rembrandts and three of the four Picassos.

However, if a source is specified with a from phrase even a very heavy DO should precede the particle; otherwise the from phrase arrives too abruptly at the end and it’s not immediately clear what it modifies:

DEPRECATED: I got back both the Rembrandts and three of the four Picassos from the thieves.
BETTER: I got both the Rembrandts and three of the four Picassos back from the thieves.

  • How about " run out of"? Is it a three word verb? Can I say? I ran out of bread. I ran out it off. How can I use three word verbs with object pronoun? "Out" and "of" are particle, right? Could you please explain some more?
    – nkm
    Nov 3, 2013 at 14:26
  • @nkm In run out of, the substance you run out of must be the object of the preposition: you have to say ran out of it. You have to learn each collocation on its own, there is no hard and fast rule. Nov 3, 2013 at 14:35
  • I misunderstood that the substance after two word verbs and three word verbs must be the direct object of verb. e.g, I put on my hat. I thought my hat is direct object of put.
    – nkm
    Nov 3, 2013 at 14:41
  • @nkm And that's yet another pattern! Both I put on my hat and I put my hat on are acceptable; neither is the same as I put my hat on the hatrack or I put my hat on my head. As I said, you have to learn each collocation independently. Nov 3, 2013 at 14:53
  • Thank you teacher! hahaha There are many things to learn about English. Preposition is so difficult. However, I 'm willing to keep learning. :)
    – nkm
    Nov 3, 2013 at 14:58

I would like to ask something about the correct position of pronouns especially the REFLEXIVE PRONOUN if it will be joined to a Phrasal Verb

Which one is correct in these 2 sentences?

He likes to show off himself because he has beautiful feathers


He likes to show himself off because he had beautiful feathers


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .