Welcome to today's Lunchtime Lessons post. This week we are looking at how to learn phrasal verbs. Our Lunchtime Lessons are free Online English classes where we look at areas of English which are often difficult for students.
If you didn’t manage to join us for our live session, you can catch up with the highlights of the class below. If you’d like to join our live session for the chance to ask the teacher questions, you can book your place directly on our website. These classes are 100% free and are on Tuesdays at 12pm.
How to learn phrasal verbs
Welcome to today's lunchtime lesson, and today we're doing a bit of a skills and vocabulary focus. We're going to be talking about how we can learn phrasal verbs. It's going to have a little bit of a Christmas twist because we're going to be looking at some phrasal verbs which are related to Christmas today as well. .
How do you now if a verb is a phrasal verb?
So the first thing to talk about is how do you actually know if a verb is a phrasal verb? And there's quite a good little trick for this. You have to think about whether the preposition after the verb changes the meaning of the infinitive of the verb. Look at these two examples
OK, if we look at this example
Phrasal verbs are not grammar
The other really important thing to consider about phrasal verbs is that phrasal verbs aren't grammar although they're very often taught in English course books as a grammar thing. But they're really not grammar, they're vocabulary, OK? And you need to think of them as vocabulary. So these are things that you should not do when you are learning phrasal verbs.
Things not to do
You have to approach them in context
The key thing with phrasal verbs is that you have to approach them in context, so this is why these horrible lists are useless, because they don't give enough context. And it's the same reason that trying to learn all of the phrasal verbs that start with 'take' is not useful because you don't have enough context. So the mantra is "language without context isn't language". And the reason that it can be impossible to learn phrasal verbs without context is this:
So here's one verb - 'make up'. Here are four different sentences which all use the verb 'make up', but in each one, it's got a different meaning.
Group them by topic
So what I would suggest is the best way to approach them is that you can think about grouping them by a topic, especially if you're doing exams. This can be really useful because if you choose topics which are commonly tested in exams, then you have a nice little collection of phrasal verbs related to each of these topics.
So I could talk about shopping, I might take back an item or try on some clothes or put on a dress. OK, if I'm talking about traveling, I could set off at nine o'clock, or the plane took off, or I would check in to my hotel. If it's sports, you would warm up before playing a match, join in a football match or cool down after exercise. And if we're talking about cooking, we might heat up food in a microwave, or chop up onions, or say the sauce boiled over.
So because you've grouped these by topic, you've already got a clearer idea of the context that we're looking at the verbs in, and that makes it easier for you to remember them and to understand them.
Create a logic for them.
So this is another really important thing that we need to do, guys that people quite often make mistakes with. So what I think one of the reasons that it can be really frustrating to learn how to use phrasal verbs is that if you are a logical person, they seem totally insane because they don't have any logic to them, so create that logic, and that's where putting them into these groups can be really helpful.
The 4 types of phrasal verbs
So before I talked a little bit about the four types of phrasal verb, and I said that you want to try and avoid that. I'll go over them quickly just so that you know what I'm talking about. But , I want to stress again, this is really not the most important thing. So the four types of phrasal verb - what that basically means is if the verb takes an object or if they don't, and where that object goes.
Why should I use phrasal verbs?
You should be using phrasal verbs and an advantage to using phrasal verbs is it stops your language being overly formal, especially if you have a Latin based language. English words that come from a Latin based origin generally have a more formal register. And if your language has a Latin based origin, when you're trying to think of a word, the first ones that come to your mind will be the ones that look similar to your language. So that means that you will generally be speaking too formally.
So if you make an effort to substitute these words with phrasal verbs, it's going to make your English sound more natural. To give you an example of that guy, compare 'take off your coat' to 'remove your coat'. This is a really unnatural form of speech, whereas the phrasal verb is what we would all say.
It also really helps improve your listening if, of course, you're talking about native speakers because native speakers use phrasal verbs constantly and all the time. So if you're using them when you're speaking, it's going to mean that you're hearing them when you listen. And they can also help you sound more fluent because an aspect about phrasal verbs is that they tend to be quite specific, explaining quite a specific action. So it makes you sound more fluent, more to the point. And if you're taking any Cambridge exams, phrasal verbs are something that are tested a lot, so it's definitely worth developing them for that aspect of your exams as well.
However, you also need to consider who you need to communicate in English with, so if you have to communicate with people who aren't native speakers, for example, if you're planning to use English in your own country to communicate as a lingua-franca with other Europeans, then phrasal verbs aren't really a priority for you because non-native speakers don't use them very much. On the other hand, if you are going to be living and working in the UK or in another English speaking country and dealing with native speakers on a regular basis, then you do actually need to work with these verbs and learn them, too.
Things you should do
So we talked about things you shouldn't do, some things you should do.
Do some practice
So we're going to try and do some practice with this, and we're going to use a little blog entry that I did about Christmas. I'd like you to read that text and the context here, of course, is Christmas. All of these verbs are related to things that we do at Christmas. So I'd like you to read through the text and see if you can understand the meaning of the words from the context. What we're going to do afterwards is discuss them together and we're going to see if we can think of an opposite for each of these. I'll give you a few minutes to read and then we'll come back to the task.
All right, so the answers
Now, if we think about now learning the opposite, it would look like this. You'll see that some of these don't have an opposite. So the verbs meet up with, sing along, snap up, get into - those verbs don't have a natural opposite and that's fine. You don't need to worry about that. But a lot of these do, and in these examples, most of them are actually phrasal verbs.
Learn vocabulary and expressions while you communicate in English! Please feel free to comment on our posts or ask any questions