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How to Study Phrasal Verbs

Study Strategy for Phrasal Verbs

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Learning phrasal verbs is one of the most challenging tasks for English learners. Teachers can use this introducing phrasal verbs lesson plan to help students become more familiar with phrasal verbs and start building phrasal verb vocabulary. This phrasal verbs reference list will also get you started with short definitions of approximately 100 of the most common phrasal verbs. Finally, there are a wide variety of phrasal verb resources on the site to help you learn new phrasal verbs and test your understanding with quizzes.

Phrasal verbs quickly become confusing for a few reasons:

  • One main verb many prepositions - Just think of the verb 'to get', here's a short list: get into, get through, get to, get into, get by, etc.
  • One phrasal verb, different meanings - Consider the phrasal verb 'pick up': pick up = learn, pick up = physically fetch, pick up = purchase, etc.
  • One phrasal verb, literal, figurative and idiomatic meanings - How about the verb 'put up': put up / literal = physically place on a shelf, put up / figurative = provide a place to sleep, put up / idiomatic = deal with a situation
  • Separable or inseparable? - Look after - inseparable / look over - separable. It's very difficult to learn which phrasal verbs separate and which don't!

Let's start with the introductory list of problem areas for phrasal verbs from above. For each phrasal verb you learn, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Which other phrasal verbs do I know that begin with this main verb?
  2. What is the literal meaning of this phrasal verb, the figurative meaning, and the idiomatic meaning? - Not all phrasal verbs have multiple meanings, but many do!
  3. Is this phrasal verb separable or inseparable?
  4. Can I write (or speak) a few example sentences with this phrasal verb?

Here's a look at 5 common phrasal verbs. It's a good list to start with, and it will help you learn to consider these various factors when learning phrasal verbs. I'll provide answers on each of the questions (in a shortened form). When you are done, use the example form to study on your own. You can either copy the form onto a piece of paper, or copy and paste into a new document. Perhaps you can even save the document with multiple blank entries so you can continue to use this method to learn phrasal verbs. Make your own phrasal verb dictionary!

Note: Not all phrasal verbs with other prepositions are listed for each main verb. That would be impossible! Try to think of as many phrasal verbs with other prepositions as you can for each of your own entries.

Phrasal Verb: Get Into

  • Other phrasal verbs with this verb?

    get to, get by, get through, get over, get at, get away with

  • Literal, figurative, idiomatic meaning?

    Literal: to open a box, drawer or other container
    Figurative: to discuss something
    Idiomatic: to enjoy

  • Separable or Inseparable?

    Inseparable

  • Example sentences:

    I used a key to get into the house.
    Let's get into the reasons why we're going to win this case.
    He really got into the concert!

Phrasal Verb: Look Forward To

  • Other phrasal verbs with this verb?

    look away, look through, look to, look at, look over

  • Literal, figurative, idiomatic meaning?

    Literal: To look at something in the front (not used often)
    Figurative: To eagerly anticipate

  • Separable or Inseparable?

    Inseparable

  • Example sentences:

    I look forward to seeing you soon.
    Susan looks forward to her vacation in July.

Phrasal Verb: Put Off

  • Other phrasal verbs with this verb?

    put on, put over, put up, put through, put away

  • Literal, figurative, idiomatic meaning?

    Figurative: to postpone something
    Idiomatic: to make someone not like

  • Separable or Inseparable?

    Separable

  • Example sentences:

    Let's put the meeting off until next week.
    Her attitude put me off.

Phrasal Verb: Make Out

  • Other phrasal verbs with this verb?

    make to, make through, make up, make off

  • Literal, figurative, idiomatic meaning?

    Figurative: to see in the distance
    Idiomatic: to kiss a lot

  • Separable or Inseparable?

    Figurative: Separable Idiomatic: Inseparable (does not take an object)

  • Example sentences:

    Can you make the island out in the distance?
    They made out for thirty minutes. It was disgusting!

Phrasal Verb: Take Off

  • Other phrasal verbs with this verb?

    take up, take over, take to, take in

  • Literal, figurative, idiomatic meaning?

    Literal: to disrobe - take clothing off your body
    Figurative: to be successful
    Idiomatic: to not go to work, take leisure time

  • Separable or Inseparable?

    Separable (Figurative: Inseparable)

  • Example sentences:

    I took my coat off and entered the room.
    The new products took off. We sold more than 300,000 in just one month!
    I need to take some time off work.

Continue to the next page for a blank worksheet that you can copy and use for your own phrasal verb study. Feel free to print as many copy as you need!

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