So many answers has been up about phrasal verbs and i've seen most of it, and it was of useful information

And I know how the most of pieces (prepositions) are being used. And fairly got used to idioms by reading much of books

I just want to know which way would be more natural while reading?

  1. He was always going (off about things)

  2. He was always (going off) (about things)


  1. She will get (off the bus)

  2. She will (get off) the bus

I just want to get opinions about how natives accept the structure while reading

  • 1
    In your first pair, talking excessively is almost always going on about {some subject}. Semantically, it probably makes more sense to associate the prepositions with the verb (go, get) in these usages, though I wouldn't say to get off is a "phrasal verb" unless it means to experience [sexual] pleasure. Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 21:04
  • @Fumble - Going on about something is talking excessively; going off about something is ranting excessively (at least, that's the usage in the U.S.). For example: He was always going off about the long lines and poor customer service. NOAD defines go off as (among other things): [informal] become suddenly angry; lose one's temper.
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 10:48
  • @J.R.: Being a natve speaker, I'm obviously aware of that (though in my BrE usage, the "aggressive ranting" sense is more likely to be going off on one). But that usage is so uncommon by comparison with going on = wittering that I think it's far more likely OP has simply got the two mixed up. Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 14:03
  • @FumbleFingers - Since you made no mention of that phrase, I wondered if it might be rare over there. It could be that the O.P. meant "going on," as you say.
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 17:05
  • @J.R.: Unless OP enlightens us, we'll never know what meaning he imputes to his usage. But I think the NGram link in my first comment is relevant to any and all future visitors who might not know either of these phrasal verbs (or worse, might think they mean the same thing). Anyway, there are other phrasal verbs that could have been used in the question (sounding off, mouthing off) that don't run the risk of misleading other users. Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 17:24

1 Answer 1


If it's a phrasal verb, treat is as a single unit:

He was always (going off) (about things).

If it's a prepositional phrase, keep the preposition with the prepositional phrase:

She (will get) (off the bus).
She (will depart) (from the airport).


She will (get off) without spending any time in jail.

From NOAD:

get off informal escape a punishment; be acquitted : she got off lightly | you'll get off with a warning.

Incidentally, one clue to recognizing when a word is part of a phrasal verb is when it is followed by a preposition. Take a look:

He was always going off about things.
She will get off with a warning.

Those consecutive preopositions show how the sentences should be parsed:

He was always (going off) about things.
She will (get off) with a warning.

However, this doesn't tell the full story; sometimes a phrasal verb is followed by an object, not a prepositional phrase:

Joe's barbs were really (getting to) Sally.

Here, barb means (from NOAD):

barb [figurative] a deliberately hurtful remark : his barb hurt more than she cared to admit.

while get to is a phrasal verb:

get to [informal] annoy or upset (someone) by persistent action

However, if we were talking about parcel post, we could also say:

Joe's packages were really getting (to Sally).

In that case, getting to is not a phrasal verb; the sentence simply means Sally was receiving the packages that Joe mailed to her.

However, if Joe was a would-be suitor, but Sally had no interest in Joe, we might say:

Joe's packages were really (getting to) Sally.

which would mean Sally was getting annoyed from too much unwanted attention.

So, the only way to know for sure is to (a) recognize the phrasal verb, and (b) know the context enough to understand the meaning of the sentence.

  • Then it would be natural to inderstand the meaning of phrasal verb (or not phrasal verb) is to grasp the meaning from the context, and from writer intentions? So far, i've regarded the prepostions embedded in phrasal verbs as one that have original single meaning even if they are used in phrasal verb 1.i'm afraid she is little (off) 2.**he was always going {(off) (about) somthing}** 1. First one is used predicatively. 2.Second one is used as complement ( prepositional phrase) but still have thier own meaning. How do you think my aspect?
    – user10222
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 12:06

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