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A particle along with a verb in a phrasal verb forms a single semantic unit. Particles are identical to prepositions in appearance. The terminology used to denote the particle is inconsistent though. Sometimes it is called an adverb, and at other times an intransitive prepositional phrase.

BACK AWAY (FROM sb/sth) means to:

1. move backwards from sb/sth; withdraw physically from sb/sth.

"The crowd backed away when the man pulled a knife."

2. stop supporting sth; begin to appear uninterested in sb/sth. 

"The candidate backed away from his previous controversial views."

BACK sth AWAY means to move sth backward away from sb/sth.

"I backed the car away from the oncoming traffic."

BACK DOWN (ON sth) means to:

1. give in; withdraw from a commitment or position; abandon an argument, assertion, opinion, or claim in the face of opposition.

"If you back down about dinner again, I'm not going to agree to another date."

Often, when you back down you stop doing sth, asking for sth, saying that you will do sth, etc., because a lot of people oppose you.

"Neither side is willing to back down."

When sb/sth is defeated or overpowered they back down.

"Hank backed down when he saw my shotgun."

2. (originally black slang) warn someone who tries to diss you to step back before you get nasty. Back down, dude, dontcha ever fuck with me.

"BACK DOWN b'fo I gots to blast you mutha fucka!"

Although 'to back away' can be used figuratively to mean withdraw one's interest from sb/sth, it can often mean to withdraw physically, take a step or steps backwards, away from something while still facing it. 

"He cautiously backed away from the fire." 

'To back down' means withdraw emotionally - to agree to accept the other person's position and abandon your own.

"She backed down on her demands."

BACK DOWN (sth) means:

1. go down sth, such as a ladder, backwards; descend.

"Harry backed down the ladder safely." 

2. move backward through some region, especially in a vehicle.

"We backed down the driveway."

3. cause sth, esp. a vehicle, to move backward through some region or space. 

"I slowly backed the truck down the hill."

A particle combined with a verb produces a new meaning different from the verb's meaning by itself. A particle doesn't take a complement. Prepositions do not change the meanings of their proceeding verbs and are independent of them. Many phrasal verbs are combined with both a particle and a preposition.

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