"when the bunch of people moved off at the peep-peep-peeping of the little green man".
I read the above in "Hedgehog" by Dick King-Smith.
Ho we do we know or test that "move off" is a phrasal verb? How do we know "off" belongs to the verb and not either a preposition or an adverb?
Of course I can check them in dictionaries but want to know how to identify them and form them in my own writing.
JigneshbharatiHow we do we know or test that "move off" is a phrasal verb?

It's debatable whether 'move off' is a phrasal verb at all in that sentence.

The idea behind 'off' in 'move off' is "increasing the distance from something", "going away". So 'move off' consists of a verb and an adverb with literal meanings.

Phrasal verbs usually have idiomatic meanings that can't be understood from the meanings of the component words, e.g., when we use 'put down' to mean "insult" or 'lighten up' to mean "make more cheerful". That doesn't happen with 'move off' in the given sentence. It literally means 'move' 'off'.

I'm inclined to say that 'move off' is not a phrasal verb there.



"off" cannot (traditionally) be a preposition because it does not have an object.

"phrasal verb" is a term of convenience for "verb + small adverb" combinations (some people also include "verb + preposition" combinations) that are "idiomatic enough" (i.e. have a meaning sufficiently more than just the sum of their parts). "idiomatic enough" does not have any precise definition. Whether "move off" counts is debatable. The good news is that it does not matter to your understanding or use of these combinations whether or not you conceive of them as "phrasal verbs". Some people don't even like to use the term at all. I think I answered a previous similar question of yours in a similar way. My suggestion is that you do not get too hung up on what is and is not a "phrasal verb".

(Cross posted)

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Sorry, CJ, just want to clear my doubt.

Thank you!

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The Collins Dictionary must be using different criteria than I do to determine whether we're dealing with a phrasal verb.

I noticed they even list "fall down" as a phrasal verb, and I can't imagine anything more literally just the verb "fall" and the adverb "down".

I find it astonishing that they even list "move into", a verb and a preposition, as a phrasal verb, as in

I want you to move into my apartment. Emotion: surprise

They seem to want to include quite a large number of combinations in the category "phrasal verb". I'm not familiar with this very inclusive approach.

Maybe someone else can help you to see it in the way that the Collins Dictionary does. Sorry.


Thank you , CJ!

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"Move off" is not a phrasal verb here. It is an intransitive verb with an adverb, "off" meaning "away". The parts of intransitive phrasal verbs cannot be separated. In this case, the people might have moved quickly off, and that rules out a phrasal.

A true phrasal is like "drop in" meaning to pay a visit. You can't drop unexpectedly in. You have to drop in unexpectedly. That is the test for intransitive phrasal verbs. I don't know how much use that will be for a learner, but there it is.

CalifJimI noticed they even list "fall down" as a phrasal verb, and I can't imagine anything more literally just the verb "fall" and the adverb "down".

I would probably classify "fall down" as a phrasal verb in "He tripped and fell down", but not in "Things always fall down, not up". But I think the whole problem with the term "phrasal verb" is that there is no single definition that everybody adheres to. Different people have their own interpretations of what does and doesn't count.