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Is "come in" a phrasal verb in "Can I come in?". Any suggestion appreciated. Thank you!

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  • What does a search for define "come in" indicate? Aug 15, 2015 at 7:02
  • I did a search, but some website says it's a phrasal and some not. For me: "come" means a movement and "in" a place. The two together doesn't really change the meaning of the verb that's why I asked. Aug 15, 2015 at 7:35
  • "In" is not a place. it's a preposition defining certain relationship. It's not a noun (unlike anything that is a place). What do you call the verb+preposition combination? Aug 15, 2015 at 13:03
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    Add some of the definitions that you found to your question, so we aren't guessing about what you read.
    – user3169
    Aug 15, 2015 at 16:38

2 Answers 2

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Can I come in?

Yes, "come in" is a phrasal verb formed by the verb "come" + the adverb "in"; it means to enter a room, building, or other place. Moreover, it doesn't need a noun (a room, building, or other place) after it. For example, you cannot say:

Can I come in the room? However, you can use a preposition " into" before a noun such as "Can l come into the room".

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Phrasal verb is a very vague term and different grammarians have different definitions. I just looked up what John Eastwood says about phrasal verbs (in Oxford Practice Grammar). He considers any compound verb (verb + adverb/compound particle) a phrasal verb. His examples are: come in, turn round, throw away and similar verbs.

I think it would be better to call verbs + adverbs compound verbs.

Other grammarians use the term phrasal verbs for compound verbs whose meaning can't be deduced from the two constituents (ie the verb and the particle). But that is a criterion that is debatable. "To come off" in "The plan came off" may be difficult in its meaning for some learners, for me the sense is transparent. So the term phrasal verb is not a strict category.

There is another problem. The compound particle can change its place before or after an object. Eastwood's example is

  • Melanie took her coat off / Melanie took off her coat.

Eastwood says "to take one's coat off" is a phrasal verb. Actually it is a normal compound verb whose meaning can be understood from the two constituents. The fact that the particle can change its place has nothing to do with phrasal verbs. The particle is movable whenever a compound verb has an object.

Another problem with compound verbs that have an object as in "Put your hat on/Put on your hat" is the question whether "to put on" in this use is transitive or not. Here we have divergent views and I think this is a topic for another post.

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