I am trying to understand phrasal verb. I thought in this situation:

(My friend is doubting about two kind shoes: Asics and Geox ...)

Me: Those shoes look nice but... Why do you want the shoes? I mean, what is the purpose of it? (for: sport, formal, casual, ...).

Friend: I want them for run.

Me: Ahh great. If so, I think that Asics shoes are the better choice, for a simple reason, Asics brand is aimed for sports. If you had asked me about a shoes for walk around towns, I would have recommended you Geox shoes because they look great and are comfortable.

When I said "for walk around towns" I meant: walk inside towns. So, I went to Cambridge Dictionary for make sure about "around" term, I got:

around [preposition, adverb]:

positioned or moving in or near a place, often without a clear direction, purpose, or order:

move in [phrasal verb]:

to go to a different place and begin to live or work there:

So "move in" as phrasal verb does not make sense but if I separate move AND in make sense, it is like: move inside a place (in a town in my example). My question is: Is the context responsible of make words act like phrasal verb or like simple words? (thinking in "move in" as example)

  • 1
    Right. Context is everything. "This video game was revolutionary because it allowed the player to move in three dimensions". Feb 25, 2020 at 20:57
  • 1
    [to learn phrasal verbs, with an s]
    – Lambie
    Feb 25, 2020 at 20:59

2 Answers 2


Yes, "move in" is a phrasal verb.

Obviously, it has to function in a sentence.

  • John moved in yesterday. [went/came to live in a place]
  • Mary moved out last week. [move in and move out of a place]

Now, consider:

  • The mouse moved in the box.

That means he was not still,that is, not moving. It is not a phrasal verb.

"Walk around" can also be a phrasal verb:

  • Do you want to get out of the car and walk around for a bit? [phrasal]
  • He walked around the town three times. [not phrasal, around the town is a prepositional phrase]

  • I like these shoes for walking around.

  • I like these shoes for walking around in town. [not in the country]
  • OR: I like these shoes for walking. OR: I like these as walking shoes.

Generally, "walk around towns" would only be idiomatic in sentences like: - I always walk around towns when I visit new ones. - I like these shoes for walks around towns.

So, yes, context sometimes will let you know whether a verb is phrasal but "move in" is usually one unless you are talking about the movement of a thing in a place,like a mouse in a box.

The dog moved in his crate. [not phrasal]

  • Thanks for your answer. Yes, with "move in" [as not phrasal] I meant in the same way as your example: The mouse moved in the box. In my sentence I said "If you had asked me about a shoes for walk around towns", so, Could it be replaced by "If you had asked me about a shoes for move in the streets ..."? Feb 25, 2020 at 21:47
  • @learnprogramming No, I'm afraid that does not work. shoes are for walking in the streets, not moving in the streets. Also, when we mean a purpose, we say to and not for.
    – Lambie
    Feb 26, 2020 at 15:48

So there seems to be a lot wrapped up in that question, but if I understand what your primary question is, then yes:

The term "phrasal verb" means specifically that it only has that meaning when those words are put together next to each other in that order, so if you separate the "move" and "in", it's no longer the same phrasal verb anymore. This is complicated, however, by the fact that there is the (technically different but related) verb "move", which often takes a preposition of "in", so some cases of "move" + "in" are the phrasal verb "move in", whereas some other ones are just "move" with a preposition of "in" following it.

And yes, in some cases, the only way you can tell phrasal verbs from similar non-phrasal verbs is based on context. However, in the case of "move in", you can actually (I think) pretty much always tell just by looking at the grammar involved:

"move in" (phrasal verb) an intransitive verb, which means it will generally only be used by itself:

He decided to move in.

or with an additional prepositional phrase following it ("to (somewhere)" or "with (someone)"):

He moved in to his apartment.

So in both of these cases, it's clear that "in" isn't being used as a preposition (because it would need to have something after it), so this must be the phrasal verb "move in".

On the other hand, "move" + "in" will always have some direction, manner or location/context following "in" (because that's what prepositions do):

He moved in the direction of the door.
The toy moved in an erratic manner.

So in these cases, this must be the preposition "in", not part of the phrasal verb "move in".

As a side-note, your phrase "for walk around towns" has a couple of different issues:

  1. When putting a verb after a preposition ("for"), you need to use the present participle (the "-ing" form of the verb), so this should be "for walking", not "for walk"
  2. People don't generally say "walking around towns", because most people don't walk around multiple towns at the same time (or on a regular basis), so this is usually phrased "walking around town" (which is something of a set phrase in English, too).

So it really should have been:

for walking around town

Likewise, in your friend's statement above, it should be:

I want them for running.

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