Source: A particle along with a verb in a phrasal verb forms a single semantic unit. Particles affect the meaning of the phrasal verb. Prepositions do not change the meanings of their preceding verbs and are independent of them.

pp 108-110 of Plain Words, 2014, by Gowers censures 'verbosity in phrasal verbs'. I want to avoid redundant particles, but how do I determine if a particle's genuinely mandatory?
Please answer in general, and NOT only for the following examples:

1. Does expound need on after? Some of ODO's example sentences use on, but others not.

2. Must jar always be followed by with? This motivated this example.
Suppose that person H thinks farro Healthy, but N thinks it Noxious.
I know that the following's perfectly right: 3. H jars with N.    But why not: 4. H and N jar. ?

Footnote: Particles and prepositions are contrasted in 1; 2;
and p 144, A Student's Introduction to English Grammar, 2005, by Huddleston and Pullum.

  • 2
    It is not possible to "determine" merely by looking at a verb whether it needs a particle. How do we know that to spend extravagantly requires "run up the bill" and not just "run the bill"? By learning the language from native speakers, as children, or later in life as adults when it's not our first language. One can also consult a good dictionary.
    – TimR
    Mar 24, 2015 at 21:20
  • 2
    The same is true with "make good on a bet". There's no way to know that "on" is required by examining "make good".
    – TimR
    Mar 24, 2015 at 21:26
  • @TRomano Thanks for your feedback. You're referring to legitimate phrasal verbs with necessary particles though, whereas I question extraneous particles? For example, Gowers exemplifies with rest up, visit with ? These respectively equate to rest, visit ?
    – user8712
    Mar 24, 2015 at 21:34
  • 2
    Consult usage. Sometimes these are either (harmless) redundancies or legitimate colloquial intensives, sometimes they have distinct meanings. Rest up, for instance, usually means "obtain sufficient rest" for some subsequent endeavour, and visit with does not mean visit = "attend someone at their home or place of business" but have a visit with = "encounter someone (anywhere) socially". Expound on/upon has been used since the 18th century to mean "speak at length about". Jar has a large number of distinct uses. Some dictionaries will record and explain these uses, some will not. Mar 24, 2015 at 21:53
  • You can "rest up" for something just as you can "save up" for something or "store up" for some eventuality. They do not equate to "rest" and "save" and "store". There is no one reference work you can consult that will be "the final word" on such questions; you must consult several.
    – TimR
    Mar 25, 2015 at 2:25

1 Answer 1


The sad (and possibly unsatisfying) answer is that it's generally impossible to determine whether a new phrasal verb requires a particle.

Part of the reason for this is that phrasal verbs are reanalysed from commonly-occurring uses of the verb with particular prepositional phrases.

For example, with save up, it might be that it used to be save up to a large amount of money and it's since been truncated. (I haven't researched this particular example, but it's a common enough phenomena.)

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