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English Phrasal Verbs – Video

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In this lesson, you can learn about English phrasal verbs. You’ll see useful tips to help you to understand and use English phrasal verbs.

Phrasal verbs are used all the time in English communication. Do you know what ‘pick up’ means? Or how to use ‘cut down’ in a sentence? This lesson will help with these phrasal verbs and more!

QUIZ: English Phrasal Verbs

Test your knowledge of the vocabulary and ideas you saw in this lesson!

In some of the questions, you need to write a phrasal verb which you saw during the lesson. There are also some multiple-choice questions about phrasal verbs that were not mentioned in the lesson.

The quiz has 20 questions in total, and you’ll see your score at the end, when you can click ‘View Questions’ to see all the correct answers.

1. About English Phrasal Verbs

Daniel: Hi, Maria! Glad you could come along!

Maria: Sorry for turning up so late. I got on the wrong bus and then I was wandering around for ages looking for your street.

D: Don’t worry about it.

M: Should I take my shoes off?

D: If you don’t mind. Would you like something to drink before we head off? Tea? Coffee?

M: I’m dying for a cup of coffee!

D: Oh no! We’ve run out of coffee! I’ll pop out to the shop and pick up some more.

M: Don’t be silly! We can stop by at the café on the way and I’ll get a cup to go.

D: Good idea! Let’s go now, then.

M: Give me a minute to put my shoes back on…

English Phrasal Verbs - put shoes on image

There were many phrasal verbs in the dialogue. In fact, there are thirteen.

How many did you hear? Could you write them down? Do you know what they mean?

If you want to practice more, go back and listen again. Try to write down all thirteen phrasal verbs.

The phrasal verbs you heard were:

  • come along
  • turn up
  • get on
  • wander around
  • look for
  • take off
  • head off
  • be dying for
  • run out of
  • pop out
  • pick up
  • stop by
  • put on

Did you get them all?

Next: what makes these verbs phrasal verbs? Can explain what phrasal verbs are?

Phrasal verbs have two or more parts: a verb, like come, turn, get or pop, and one or more particles, like along, up, on, or around.

Some phrasal verbs exist as set phrases, like be dying for. You could argue that it isn’t really a phrasal verb, but it behaves like one, so we’ve included it here.

Most importantly, a phrasal verb has one meaning. The verb and particle don’t have independent meanings.

For example, in the verb turn up, the words turn and up don’t have separate meanings. The verb has two parts but one meaning.

What does turn up mean, by the way?

It means to arrive or appear. It’s a very common verb you could use in your spoken English!

Also, the meaning of a phrasal verb can be totally different from the meaning of the words which it’s made from.

For example, turn up has no connection with the basic meaning of turn.

Finally, many phrasal verbs have more than one meaning. Often, the two (or sometimes three) meanings are completely separate.

With turn up, you can also turn up the radio, the TV, or the volume on this video if you want to make it louder!

So, now you know some basic information about phrasal verbs.

But, what makes phrasal verbs different from ‘normal’ verbs?

2. Phrasal Verbs vs. Normal Verbs

Many English phrasal verbs have the same meaning as another ‘normal’ one-word verb.

For example:

  • turn up → arrive
  • head off → leave
  • pick up → buy or collect

Other phrasal verbs have a unique meaning. For example, run out of, stop by or pop out can’t be replaced with just one verb with the exact same meaning.

Let’s practice. Here are five phrasal verbs, and six one-word verbs.

Can you match the phrasal verbs to the one-word verbs with the same meanings? Be careful, because there’s one extra verb, which you don’t need!

[Table appears
look for install
go on invent
put in continue
fill in connect
make up seek

look for install
go on invent
put in continue
fill in connect
make up seek

Ready? Here are the answers.

look for seek
go on continue
put in install
fill in complete
make up invent

Even here, you need to be careful.

First, the phrasal verb and the one-word verb might not be exactly the same.

For example, what does install mean? What things can you install?

You can install household goods, like washing machines or air conditioners. You can also install software on your computer or on your phone.

The phrasal verb put in only has the first idea: you can put in a new washing machine, but you can’t put in a new app or put in a new operating system.

Secondly, the phrasal verb and the one-word verb often have different registers.

What does that mean?

It means they’re used in very different situations.

Let’s see why this matters:

D: Hi, Maria! Glad you could attend!

M: Sorry for appearing so late. I boarded the wrong bus and then I was wandering for ages seeking your street.

D: Don’t worry about it.

M: Should I remove my shoes?

D: If you don’t mind. Would you like something to drink before we depart? Tea? Coffee?

That was part of the same dialogue you heard before. How was it different? Did it sound natural to you?

This time, we used one-word verbs instead of phrasal verbs in many places. I hope you heard that the dialogue sounded very strange and unnatural.

For example, a native speaker would almost never say sentences like these:

  • Glad you could attend!
  • Sorry for appearing so late.
  • I boarded the wrong bus.
  • I was seeking your street.
  • Should I remove my shoes?
  • Would you like something to drink before we depart?

The one-word verbs are too formal, and they aren’t used in simple, spoken English like this. You need to use the phrasal verbs.

  • Glad you could come along!
  • Sorry for turning up so late.
  • I got on the wrong bus.
  • I was looking for your street.
  • Should I take off my shoes?
  • Would you like something to drink before we head off?

Even when phrasal verbs and one-word verbs have the same meaning, you can’t always use them in the same way. Look for and seek have the same meaning, but seek is much more formal and literary. You wouldn’t use it often in conversational English.

English Phrasal Verbs - look for image

So, in spoken English, you often need to use phrasal verbs to sound natural.

On the other hand, because many phrasal verbs are more informal, they aren’t appropriate in formal writing.

That said, many English learners think that ‘all phrasal verbs are informal’. That isn’t true. Phrasal verbs can be more formal or informal like any other words.

For example, pop out is very informal; you probably wouldn’t use it in written English. Look for has a neutral tone, meaning you can use it in any situation.

Some phrasal verbs, like draw upon, even sound quite formal.

However, when you have a phrasal verb and a one-word verb with the same meaning, like turn up and arrive, the one-word verb is generally more formal than the phrasal verb.

Now, you should know what phrasal verbs are, how they’re different from ‘normal’ verbs, and when you should use phrasal verbs.

Learn more about ‘normal’ verbs with this Oxford Online English lesson on English verb tenses.

Next, let’s turn to a very important question: how can you remember phrasal verbs?

3. How to Remember Phrasal Verbs Using Prepositions

We said before that the meaning of a phrasal verb often has no connection to the words which it’s made from.

For example, if you look up a new word in the dictionary, there’s no direct connection to the meaning of up.

However, prepositions in phrasal verbs aren’t totally random. Often, the same preposition in different phrasal verbs has a similar meaning.

Look at three verbs:

  • go down
  • cut down
  • turn down

The preposition down has a similar meaning in these three verbs. Do you know what connects them?

Perhaps it’ll be clearer if you see them in full sentences:

  • Sales went down by 15% last year.
  • I’m trying to cut down on how much coffee I drink.
  • Can you turn the TV down? It’s too loud.

Can you see the connection now?

In these phrasal verbs, down has the idea of something decreasing.

English Phrasal Verbs - go down image

Let’s look at another example. Here are three sentences:

  • He sent out hundreds of job applications.
  • They handed out immigration forms before we landed.
  • The teacher gave out the worksheets.

These sentences contain phrasal verbs with the preposition out. Can you see what connects them?

These three phrasal verbs: send out, hand out and give out all have the idea of ‘to many people at one time.’

If he sent out hundreds of job applications, then he sent many job applications, to many different people, all at one time.

If the teacher gave out the worksheets, then she gave out many worksheets to many students at one time.

Again, you can see how one preposition can have a similar meaning in different phrasal verbs.

Learning more about prepositions and how they’re used in phrasal verbs can help you to make connections like these and remember phrasal verbs more easily!

Let’s see one more practical tip to help you learn and remember English phrasal verbs.

4. How to Remember Phrasal Verbs by Using Context

So far, you’ve seen that:

  1. The meaning of a phrasal verb often has no connection to the meaning of the words which it’s made of.
  2. Phrasal verbs can have more than one meaning.
  3. Using phrasal verbs correctly depends heavily on register, not just on meaning.

Why are these things important for remembering phrasal verbs?

They’re important because it’s very hard to learn and remember phrasal verbs without context.

For example, if you learn vocabulary by writing down the translation in your language, and then trying to memorise the translation, you’ll have big problems remembering and using phrasal verbs.

Actually, this is true for all vocabulary learning, but it’s especially true with phrasal verbs.

You’ll end up with a list of verbs that look very similar to you: look up, look up to, look down on, look through, look around, look after… It’s too hard!

So, practice good vocabulary learning habits with phrasal verbs.

Make sure you learn phrasal verbs in full sentences.

If possible, the sentences should mean something to you. Try to take example sentences from things you read or heard which were interesting for you.

You could even take examples from conversations you had in English, so long as you’re confident you can remember the sentences correctly.

Let’s practice; here are three phrasal verbs from this lesson:

  • come along
  • head off
  • pop out

Can you make an example sentence with each verb? Try to make something relevant to you and your life.

Do it now; pause the video, and write down your three sentences.

Ready? Here are some suggestions. Of course, your sentences will be different. That’s fine.

However, if you’re not sure that your sentences are correct, it’s important to check. Ask a friend or a teacher. Otherwise, you’ll learn the words wrong.

Here are our suggested sentences:

  • Do you want to come along to the cinema tonight?
  • It’s getting late, so I think I’ll head off.
  • I think she’s popped out to get something for lunch.

Now, you have your example sentences, and hopefully you’ve checked that they’re correct. What next?

Use a digital flashcard app such as Quizlet, or Anki. Put your sentences in as questions with the phrasal verbs replaced with gaps. For example:

  • Do you want to c— —– to the cinema tonight?
  • It’s getting late, so I think I’ll h–d —.
  • I think she’s —— — to get something for lunch.

You can make the questions easier or more difficult by removing fewer or more letters.

If you haven’t used Quizlet, Anki or anything like that before, then we recommend checking them out. Here are some links: Quizlet, Anki.

Also, we highly recommend making more than one card for each verb. For example:

  • pop out
  • I think she’s —— — to get something for lunch.
  • I’m just p-pp— — for a cigarette.
  • He’ll be back in a minute. He’s just —— –t for a walk.

Again, you can make some cards easier and some cards more difficult.

Review your cards regularly, and you’ll find it easy to remember English phrasal verbs, because you’ll be learning them in context.

Thanks for watching!

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