A multi-word verb is a verb that has more than one word. We usually think of them as a main verb followed by one or two particles. The particle could be an adverb or a preposition.
I never messed around at school, I was a good student.
(to mess around = to behave badly)
Multi-word verbs with prepositions are known as prepositional verbs. Multi-word verbs with adverbs are known as phrasal verbs. The term phrasal verbs is often used to refer to all multi-word verbs.
Same verb, different meaning
Some multi-word verbs have different meanings. These examples are all connected with verb to take off.
He’s very good at taking people off.
(to take someone off = to impersonate, mimic, copy the way someone speaks)
Our flight finally took off after a two-hour delay.
(to take off = to leave the ground)
When he came in he took his jacket off.
(to take something off = to remove an item of clothing)
I never thought social media would take off. I guess I couldn’t have been more wrong.
(to take off = to become successful and popular)
He wasn’t playing well so the manager took him off after 30 minutes.
(to take someone off = to substitute a player)
Crumbs! Is that the time? I’ve got to take off.
(to take off = to leave suddenly)
I’m not feeling very well, I think I’ll have to take the day off.
(to take a period of time off = to not go to work for a period of time)