Learning phrasal verbs can be fun


Some students find phrasal verbs very difficult to learn, and some even hate them. To those students, I say that phrasal verbs are not really so difficult to learn if you go about it the right way.

Here are a few hints for teachers, drawn on my long teaching experience:
-Teach your students a limited number of Phrasal Verbs each time.
-Have your students learn the verbs in context.
- Give them a non-phrasal equivalent for each new phrasal verb they learn, whenever there is one. If there isn’t one, give them a good definition, either in English or in Spanish, of the phrasal verb in question.
-Have them practise each verb by means of a role-play and, if possible, encourage them to make up their own dialogues. Here are some examples of role-plays, which my students acted out in my classes:

Role-play 1: to get on well with someone  = llevarse bien con alguien (sketch based on an old joke)


John: Hullo, Peter. I hear you’ve bought your mother-in-law a jaguar.
Peter: Yes, I have.
John: But I thought you didn’t get on well with her.
Peter: And I don’t. The jaguar has already bitten her twice.

Role-play 2: to drop off = quedarse dormido (lit. caerse de un sitio) (sketch based on an old joke)


Patient: Doctor, doctor, I suffer from insomnia, I can’t get any sleep at night, what can I do?
Doctor: You can't get any sleep, I see. Well, my advice is: sleep on the edge of the bed and you’ll soon drop off.
Patient: But, but, doctor, I don’t want to drop, I just want to sleep.
Doctor: I never said you'd drop, I said you'd soon drop off. Don’t you know your phrasal verbs? To drop off means to fall asleep.
Patient: Oh, I see, thak you so much, doctor.

Role-play 3: to speak up - hablar más alto (sketch made up by the the students themselves)


Teacher: John, did you study your phrasal verbs?
Student (speaking in a low voice): No, I couldn’t. I had a terrible headache.
Teacher: I can’t hear you. Speak up!
Student (getting on to his desk and speaking as softly as before): I couldn’t. I had a terrible headache.
Teacher (getting angry): What are you doing there? Come down at once!
Student: But you told me to speak up and I am up.
Teacher: For goodness’ sake. You don’t know your phrasal verbs. To speak up means to speak louder or clearer.

Role-play 4: to put sb up= hospedar, dar alojamiento (sketch made up by the students themselves)


Guest: Can you put me up?
Receptionist: No, I’m sorry. I can’t put you up, you’re too heavy for me.
Guest: You don’t understand, what I mean is if you have a vacant room.
Receptionist: Ah, that’s different. Room 405.

And now a QUIZ to see how self-confident you are. Answer the questions with always, often, sometimes, seldom or never, as the case may be:

a.- Do you easily blow up (lose your temper/get suddenly angry)..................
b.- If someone is rude to you, do you find it necessary to answer back (to reply in a rude way)? ...................
c.- Do you easily give up (lose interest and admit defeat)............................
d.- In a group, do you go along with (agree with) other people’s suggestions, even if you don’t like them, rather than make your own? ...................
e.- At meetings or discussions, you dare not break in (interrupt) even if you feel you have something really important to say? .....................
f.- Is it practically impossible for you to get on well with (to have a friendly relationship with) strangers?..................
g.- If someone you hardly know invites you to call on (to visit) him or her, are you too shy to accept?................
h.- In a shop, etc., do you let others push in (jump the queue) even if it’s your turn?..................
i.- At a party, does it take you long to warm up (to liven up)?....................
j.- If someone is wasting your time, do you find it impossible to invite him or her to push off (to go away)? .....................


always – 1 point
often – 2 points
sometimes – 3 points
seldom – 4 points
never – 5 points


41-50          you are full of self-confidence
31-40          you are rather self-confident
21-30          you are reasonably self-confident
11-20          you are a bit shy
1-10            you are extremely shy and should try to increase                      your self-confidence

In my Gramática Inglesa, 9ª ed., pp. 700-726, you will find an appendix (Apéndice 8) with the most usual phrasal verbs, with definitions, examples and non-phrasal equivalents, whenever there is one, v.g. account for something (dar cuenta de, explicar, justificar) Every penny you spend will have to be accounted for Tendrás que dar cuenta de cada penique que gastes [justify]; act up (causar problemas, dar la lata, dar guerra) My car has been acting up again Mi coche me ha estado dando la lata otra vez [give trouble, play up].

2 comentarios :

  1. Think of Phrasal verbs as you would any other English vocabulary. Study them as you come across them, rather than trying to memorize many at once.

    Phrasal Verbs Exercise

  2. I agree, but doing exercises to practise them is not a bad idea, provided the sentences in which the phrasal verbs appear have a perfectly clear meaning, and any ambiguities are avoided.