A look at nouns formed from phrasal verbs

Nouns can be made from many phrasal verbs. I have compiled a very short list of some common examples (with their phrasal verbs in brackets):


workout (work out)

burnout (burn out)


catch-up (catch up)

hold-up (hold up)


break-in (break in)

intake (take in)

Normally the particle goes after the verb, for example in 'break-in', but sometimes it goes before the verb, for example in 'intake'.

These are compound nouns made up of two words, which are written as one word, which is sometimes hyphenated.

Have a look at this health and fitness advice to see some examples in context:

  • It is important to warm up before a workout and stretch afterwards.
  • You should avoid burnout by getting enough rest in between exercise.
  • You can also lose fat by reducing your calorie intake.

workout = exercise regime

burnout = exhaustion

intake = consumption

Like normal nouns, these nouns formed from phrasal verbs can also collocate with certain verbs. For example, have a catch-up (ponerse al día), which means 'to talk to someone you haven't seen in a while'.

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Last but not least, the stress pattern of these nouns is important. Unlike phrasal verbs, in which the second word is normally stressed, the main stress falls on the first part of the noun.

breakin break-in

By the way, 'break in' is also one of those two-part phrasal verbs that can be made into a three-part one. For example:

Someone's broken in. (no object)

Someone's broken into our house. (to + object 'our house')

Alternatively, we can express this using the noun:

There's been a break-in at our house.

Real spoken English

Do you know what a native English speaker means when they ask the following questions...?

What's the hold-up?

Fancy a catch-up?

If someone asks 'What's the hold-up?', they mean 'Why is there a delay?', usually because they are stuck in traffic or perhaps waiting in a long queue or, possibly,you are running late and holding them up!

If someone asks if you fancy a 'catch-up', they are asking you to meet up and have a chat, probably as you've not seen them for a while and they're interested in hearing about your life and your news.

Encuentra tu profesor ideal

So, to sum up, we can make compound nouns from some phrasal verbs by putting the two words together,sometimes hyphenating the word. The main stress is usually on the first part, not the second part like in most phrasal verbs. Some of these nouns can collocate with certain verbs.

Keep an eye out for these nouns formed from phrasal verbs in your reading and be sure to practise them in your classes.

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