THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Phrasal Verbs

Multi-word Verbs

If I had to say what the single most asked question by my students is, I believe that would be:
How can I learn phrasal verbs?
I can almost see you nod here.

Why are they a problem? Let’s see...

Meaning is not always transparent or easily predictable from the words. In fact, they tend to have different meanings. They can also vary according to dialect. We cannot play around much with them, the minute we get creative and change the particle we have said something else!

It is always advisable to have a good dictionary around.

Cambridge Dictionaries Online

In the Cambridge International Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs there are over 5,000 but you probably need much less to sound natural.

The point is not to know all of them, but to accurately figure them out.

How should I study phrasal verbs?
The answer is there is no best method, but fortunately there are techniques, books and websites! Let’s take a web tour.

Here is a good place to start:

A Comprehensive Treatment
In this website you can find the most frequent verbs in context -their meanings and their particle meanings. Lots of collocations, some games and a small glossary:

I believe the author (a teacher of course) has done a great job in balancing grammar, meaning and context. Two thumbs up!

A Traditional Approach
Varying the method of study can help you focus on the different aspects that make a phrasal a complex little thing. Sometimes a traditional grammar list can be useful.
Here is a good one:
Includes: Grammar Explanations, lists with definitions and examples, some exercises.

The Structure of a Phrasal Verb
Now you discover phrasal verbs are actually multi-word verbs which can be transitive or intransitive, separable or inseparable. It is important to know the structure and usage of the verb you want to learn. We need a lot of examples!
Here is a searchable list with one sentence examples of all types of phrasal verbs.
Includes: A list with formal English definitions and an example. Simple and concise.

A Topic-based Approach
Perhaps you haven’t solved all your grammar doubts about phrasal verbs reading all of the above. Anyway, you need to see them and hear them in context. Grouping vocabulary according to topic will certainly help you to remember them.
Here is the BBC Funky Phrasals with mini dialogues about health, childhood, career, and holidays. You just can’t miss it!
BBC Learning English
Includes: Scrip and audio.

What do I need to learn? I mean, for the FCE exam...

Are Phrasals Formal or Informal?
After reviewing context, structure and topics we still have to review the question of register. This is paramount for using phrasals in your FCE writing paper. This website will help you learn formal equivalents of some phrasal verbs:
Includes: 14 practice texts with latinate verbs compared to phrasal verbs.

Remember: The meaning of a phrasal does not always apply on a one to one correspondence to the meanings of its formal equivalent. Then, context is vital if not everything here.

How about some extra exercises?
What? You still want more practice?
All right. Here it goes:
Includes: Quizzes and lots of links to exercises.

Regardless your learning style, I would advise you to try all of them. Or at least do not fall in love with only one type of exercise. The mind gets bored and that is precisely the instant in which learning stops.
So take it easy, when you are tired, give yourself a break and come back to this post some other time, try one more exercise or two.

In a nutshell, when learning phrasal verbs, don’t give up, keep it up!



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