The present work investigates English verb particle combinations (e.g., put on) and argues that item-specific and general information are needed and should be related within a default inheritance hierarchy. When verb particle combinations appear within verb phrases, a tripartite phrasal syntax is defended, whether or not the V and P are adjacent (e.g., She put on the wrong shoes; she put the wrong shoes on). The < V NP P > order is motivated as the default word order by explicitly relating a verb-particle construction to the caused-motion construction (e.g., she put the shoes on her feet). Well-known and independently needed processing considerations related to complement length, information status, and semantics motivate system-wide generalizations that can serve to override the default word order. Lexical verb-particle combinations (e.g., a pickup truck; a showdown) and an idiomatic case, V-off are also briefly discussed as providing further evidence for the need for both item-specific and more general constructions.