Important information about phrasal verbs

What is a phrasal verb?

A Phrasal Verb is a verb that consist of two parts. The first part is always a verb like give, go, come, get etc. and the second part is a preposition like in, on, up, down etc. In some cases the second part is an adverb such as away, together This combination of a verb and a preposition or an adverb creates a meaning which is completely different from that the original verb.

Each Phrasal Verb usually has a non-phrasal synonym. For example, a) you should not turn down his offer. or you should not reject his offer. b) He compensated for the loss, or He made up for the loss. Native speakers use Phrasal Verbs quite a lot in their daily conversations, so as a learner of English language you need to be familiar with them to speak English like a native. Here is the Complete List of Phrasal Verbs.

The difficulty with phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are one of the most difficult aspects for learners of the English language. There are three main reasons for this:

In many cases the meaning of the phrasal verb cannot be deduced from its elements, i.e., it is being used idiomatically. For example: a learner who knows that to tick is to make a checkmark may have difficulty in understanding the sentence The teacher ticked off the student for being late, in which the phrasal verb to tick off means to reprimand or to express disapproval.

Many phrasal verbs are polysemous; i.e., they have more than one meaning. The phrasal verb to put down has the literal meaning of putting something down on the table or floor. But it also has the idiomatic meanings:

to make someone feel small, to criticize and humiliate them

to kill as in the sentence I had to have my cat put down.

to stop, quash, put an end to as in the sentence The police put down the riots with unnecessary brutality.

There are difficulties with the grammar of phrasal verbs, particularly with the position of the preposition/adverb used. Look at the following examples:

Correct: She put down the baby.

Correct: She put the baby down.

InCorrect: I broke with my girlfriend up.

Correct: I broke up with my girlfriend.

Correct: The student put her bad grade down to tiredness.

Incorrect: The student put down her bad grade to tiredness.

Why should you learn them?

Because they form an integral part of the English language as spoken every day. They also appear in most writing, except the very formal. Unless you are comfortable with them, you may find yourself scratching your head and asking questions like, "What does up (or into, or down, or under) mean in this sentence?". Apart from understanding phrasal verb usage, another reason you should learn some is so that you sound more fluent and comfortable with the language.

You shouldn't worry about memorising loads and loads of them right now, there are too many. However, get familiar with the idea of these phrases and consider the rest of the sentence, as well as the sentences before and after, for a general idea of what they mean. If you are speaking English frequently or reading English stories and books, idioms will get easier and easier for you.

While you mightn't have to learn hundreds of them, it would be wise to be familiar with at least a few commonly used phrasal verbs to use when speaking or even writing.

More on Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal Verbs-

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