Phrasal Verbs, Modifiers, Accepting Arbitrary Conventions

I had a question about the sentence “I do need to chill out.”

Specifically, I was wondering if “to chill out” was an infinitive
verb, or maybe “out” was a modifier.

I found “chill out” described as a “phrasal verb” in a
dictionary and decided that that settled the matter as to the question
of whether “out” was a modifier, the answer being “no.”

Elliot commented off-list:

it interprets fine as non-phrasal
calling it phrasal is like looking up a name for something and being
like “someone said it’s named this, therefore mystery solved”
ur just accepting it’s arbitrary convention

I agree. I am taking the approach of looking up a name for something and
thinking I understand it a lot.

Anyways, with regards to the comment “it interprets fine as
non-phrasal”, here are some questions/research/thoughts on that. I
also discuss “hang out” cuz that seemed pretty similar. Note that
these are just my thoughts and I’m not trying to present myself as
authoritative. I used sections cuz stuff was getting unwieldly and
winding up in the wrong section so I wanted to impose some structure.

Dictionary Definitions

What’s the relationship of “out” to the verbs “to hang” and
“to chill” in the expressions “to hang out” and “to chill

Let’s start out with dictionary definitions:

For “hang”, Webster’s 3rd International dictionary offers the
following definition (among many others):

2.: to spend time idly especially with a particular person or group of
people : hang out — usually used with with

Webster’s 3rd International also has this definition for “hang”:

8.:idle, loiter

found the boys hanging around poolrooms

making the acquaintance of quiet gentlemen hanging about the fringes
of tourist parties — Louis Bromfield

For chill/chill out, there are a couple of different meanings. They are
both somewhat connected to the idea of relaxing but they’re pretty

One meaning of “chill out”, which is the one in the initial sentence
I started out with, is something like: you’re uptight/upset and you
need stop being upset. It’s very close in meaning to “calm down”,
as in “you need to calm down.”

Webster’s 3rd International mentions that “to chill out” as a verb
is often used in the imperative, which I think is connected to this
calming down sense.

Another meaning of “chill out” is basically synonymous with “hang

American Heritage 4th edition gives the following relevant definitions
for “chill”:


a. To calm down or relax. Often used with out.

b. To pass time idly; loiter. Often used with out.

c. To keep company; see socially. Often used with out.

“Out” is an adverb in terms of parts of speech.

Justin’s Analysis of “Out” As a Modifier

So is “out” serving as a modifier in “chill out” and “hang

I did some thinking.

Compare the beginning of two sentences:

I was hanging with

I was hanging out with

After “I was hanging with”, I think I would likely expect the
speaker to name some person they were spending time with. But, the
sentence could still go a variety of different directions. (I imagined
something dramatic like “I was hanging with the dagger between my
teeth as I stared down into the open space below the cliff I was
dangling from.”)

With “I was hanging out with”, I’m more certain when I reach the
“with” about the general direction the sentence is going in because
of the “out.” So, the “out” is conveying some information when
coupled with the “hanging”. It’s reducing some ambiguity.

So, I tentatively think “out” is a modifier for “hang out.” I
think maybe I was confused cuz the nature of the ambiguity being
reduced/question being answered by “out” seems less clear than the
ambiguity reduction/question being answered by, say, “red” in “the
red ball.”

I tried to come up with a similar example to illustrate ambiguity
reduction for the “calm down” meaning of “chill out” but I
struggled, so I’ll just omit that.

Concluding Thoughts

Are there any legit “phrasal verbs”? Is it a useful concept?

I looked up lists of phrasal verb examples and it looked like the
examples involved a bunch of adverbs and prepositions being appended to
verbs e.g.

So that made me wonder if perhaps phrasal verbs are a misconceived idea,
at least as far as the adverbs are concerned. 🤔

Let’s assume “chill out” isn’t a phrasal verb. Let’s try
analyzing the following sentence:

“I do need to chill out.”

Subject: I
Auxiliary Verb: do
Verb: need
Object: the expression “to chill out”

Is “to chill” an infinitive meaning “to calm down”, serving as a
direct object, and being modified by “out”? Maybe.


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