>>      Firstly, it has occurred to me that it should not be wrong to
>>end certain sentences with prepositions. Why? Because ending certain
>>sentences with prepositions is "INNATE" in English. It's built in.
>>It's a natural tendency for English speakers to do so, because ...
>>Voila! --- English is a Germanic language! 

>By the same token, I suppose you would regard it as ok if all verbs in
>relative clauses, etc., to the end moved were!
Of course, those aren't "prepositions" in phrasal verbs, as I'm sure everybody knows, except perhaps those whose grammatical education stopped in third grade. And English doesn't do inversions with its phrasal verbs (trennbare Vorsilben auf Deutsch), just as it doesn't do inversions with its compound verb phrases in subordinate clauses. That's the cause of the "final verb" construction you allude to.

So, very specifically "by the same token", you draw exactly the opposite conclusion from what's warranted. English grammar does inversions differently from German, and consistently differently.

A language that really is verb-final is Japanese. About half the languages in the world work like that. German moves verbs, in a special order, only in certain subordinate clauses. So it's still plenty similar to English, in fact very similar, if you look below the minor rearrangement. And phrasal verbs are part of the similarity, and a large part of the verb system of both languages.

Take a look at any dictionary of phrasal verbs, like Longman's; there are over a dozen possible particles, and it's quite common for any single verb to have 5 or 6 separate idiomatic phrasal verbs attached to it. Just as it's hard for an English speaker who knows auf and hören to understand why aufhören means what it does in German, it's pretty impossible to predict what, for example, the following mean:

I picked her up after school.
I picked her up in a roadhouse.
The pickup's lost a tire.
We had a pickup game.
The cover's blown; scratch the pickup.
Pick up your room.
Pick up that pencil.
Pick up a quart of milk.
Pick up the argument where you left off.

-- followup

>I wonder if "close off" is a phrasal verb, i.e. has a meaning
>that couldn't be derived directly from the meaning of the parts.
>If so, is it closer to "close down", or "close out", or "shut off",
>or something else?   
The standard test for [transitive] phrasal verbs has to do with positioning of direct objects, nominal and pronominal. There's a lot of hair involved, but basically if sentences with objects that are nouns may place them either before or after the "particle" ('off' in this case), while sentences with pronominal objects must have them between the verb and the particle, you have a phrasal verb. Another standard test is that the particle is stressed in a phrasal verb, but of course this is spoken, not written. Exx:
He closed the exit/spare room off.
He closed off the exit/spare room.
He closed it off.
*He closed off it.
Conclusion: phrasal verb.

As to the sense, it seems to me to be closer to close down and shut off, both. The off particle has a lot of senses (they all do -- there's a lot of possible senses and damn few available particles), but one of them is certainly the idea of partitioning and cessation, as in curtain off, shut off, turn off, and the like.

The actual meaning, as with any verb, is going to depend on the precise nature of the direct object, and the degree of metaphorization involved in the construction.

Mark Israel writes, [...in answering the same query:]

>   The nearest synonym is "seal off", which means "to block (an
>entrance, area, etc.) completely so as to prevent escape or
>entrance" (RHUD2).
I don't think I'd disagree too strenuously, except that I doubt I'd ever say anything was the nearest synonym to anything else -- too absolute, too easy to be wrong. I prefer to hedge and qualify where possible. No doubt a serious moral deficiency, mea culpa.

[...and, in replying to my post:]

>> As to the sense, it seems to me to be closer to "close down"
>> and "shut off", both.

>   Hardly!  Look at your own examples.  You close down a factory;
>you shut off water or electricity; but you close off an exit or a
>spare room.
Examples are examples, not exhaustive lists. I said it was closer to, not synonymous with. The fact that there are differences implies that there will be contexts where one is appropriate and the other isn't. That's why we have separate phrases, no?

I think what you may be reacting to is the undeniable denial of transit associations of close off.
The material being denied transit (entrance, exit, or conveyance) in close off may be

or anything that can be metaphorized onto these (and probably some others, as well -- this is also not an exhaustive list). So that's why you can't close off a factory (except to, say, vehicular or pedestrian traffic). You can, by the way, close off the water or electricity, but that refers to physical shutting down of the conduits, not the metaphorical shutting off of official rights or service to them.
  - John Lawler       Linguistics Department and Residential College     University of Michigan

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