She wonders if Riley will ever be put back together again.

I cann't recognize which one is the phrasal verb:

  • put back
  • put together
  • put back together

And What does it mean: Riley will ever be put back together again?

The full text:

She glances at Riley, whom she recognized the night before as a war correspondent for the New York Times. She’s got the look. Not the look of the hardened journalist who has necessarily grown a thick, protective skin. She’s at the other end of the scale—she’s broken wide open, raw. She wonders if Riley will ever be put back together again. She can recognize PTSD when she sees it; she’s seen it before.


To put something together is to assemble it from its pieces into a whole.

If you take it apart, or it happens to fall apart for some reason, you can put it back together and it can be put back together (passive).

The word back refers to restoring something to a previous state.

Please put that book back on the shelf.

You can put your coffee cup down.

You can put the magnifying glass away.

You can put your socks in a drawer.

You can put jams and jellies up.

You can put a puzzle together.

You can put clothes on. If you take them off, you can put them back on again. And then you can take them back off again.

You can put an idea across.

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  • 1
    I think you've hit the nail on the head; the base phrasal verb is put together; the the word back can be added when something had been put together previously and it needs to be "re-put together". That thing could be something physical (like a jigsaw puzzle) or figurative (like someone's emotional well-being). – J.R. Aug 18 '18 at 19:31

According to the text, it seems that Riley has experienced a lot of suffering and hardship, So I think put back together is the phrasal verb and according to the Merriam-Webster it means:

to begin living in a normal way after suffering loss, hardship, etc.

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    One of the great English nursery rhymes is Humpty Dumpty - one version of which reads: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king's horses and all the king's men, Couldn't put Humpty (back) together again. (ie. could not mend or repair Humpty Dumpty) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humpty_Dumpty – Ronald Sole Aug 18 '18 at 12:53
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    It's relevant to the meaning that OP's cited usage is a passive construction. Your M-W definition is for the "reflexive" verb phrase to get/put one's life back together, which implies the (psychologically damaged) subject healing herself, but the cited usage is about being cured (by specialist PTSD counsellors, medication, or whatever). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 18 '18 at 12:57
  • @RonaldSole - Your quoting the nursery rhyme only muddies the waters. The OP is asking of put together is a phrasal verb, or if it's put back together. One could argue that Humpty Dumpty supports the former. – J.R. Aug 18 '18 at 19:28

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