Lesson Summary 

WHY are PHRASAL VERBS so DIFFICULT to learn?
– Because there are so many of them?
– Because they are so commonly used that they can be overwhelming.
– Because one phrasal verb can have multiple meanings
– Many phrasal verbs are idiomatic, so their meaning is not always as the individual words suggest.

In this lesson, I’ll share 6 tips to help you learn and use more phrasal verbs, including:
– What exactly is a Phrasal Verb?
– Is it transitive or intransitive?
– Is it separable or inseparable?
– They’re just multi-word verbs
– HOW TO find the right phrasal verbs to practice
– Practice USING phrasal verbs… The right way!

CLICK HERE to read the full lesson transcript.

More English lessons recommended for you: 

Video Transcript
Section 1
Okay you’ve been asking for this video for a long time, so here it is! Phrasal verbs in English.

Phrasal verbs in English. Now, why are phrasal verbs so difficult to learn?

  • Because there are many of them
  • Because they’re so commonly used
  • Because they’re so commonly used
  • Because one phrasal verb can have multiple meanings

For example, the phrasal verb “put down” can mean to place something down on the ground or a surface, to humiliate or criticise someone or to kill an animal that was sick or suffering.

Many phrasal verbs are idiomatic, as well, so their meaning is not always as the individual words suggest. For example to “look up to someone” can mean that you respect them. You don’t actually have to be shorter than someone and physically looking up to them to be able to use this phrasal verb.

No wonder phrasal verbs are so frustrating!

If you’re determined to understand more about phrasal verbs, then this lesson is for you. I’m going to teach you six things that you need to know about phrasal verbs.

Starting with..

1. What is a phrasal verb actually?

A phrasal verb is a standard verb such as put, go, or take, plus one or two particles. Now don’t let that confuse you! A particle in a phrasal verb is either a preposition or an adverb.

  • Go out
  • Go after
  • Go together
  • Go away 

These are prepositions and these are adverbs.

But of course, there are many, many more phrasal verbs.

  • Hang out
  • Look after
  • Bring together
  • Put away 
  • Hang up
  • Look out for
  • Bring out
  • Put up with

2. Transitive or Intransitive?

Now, once you know how to recognise a phrasal verb you need to learn how to use it correctly and one of the first things that you need to find out is is it a transitive or an intransitive phrasal verb?

If it’s transitive, you need something or someone you need something or someone If it’s intransitive, it stands on its own.

Take the example from before, the phrasal verb “look up to” which means to respect or admire someone but this phrasal verb always has to be followed always has to be followed, by someone. You can’t just say “I really look up to”. The first thing that I would have to ask them is who? Who do you look up to?

“Look up to” is a transitive phrasal verb. You need to have someone after the phrasal verb to make it make sense.

But some phrasal verbs are intransitive which means they work fine on their own. For example, to “grow up” means to mature and you never need to add an object here. Here are a few examples of how this works.

He grew up in Singapore.
Your children are growing up so fast!
What do you want to be when you grow up?

Now some phrasal verbs are either transitive or intransitive, depending on the meaning. So take the example “come over” which has two meanings. The first is an intransitive phrasal verb and it means to visit someone in the place where they are, usually their house.

Why don’t you come over?

It stands on its own. But “come over” can also be transitive But “come over” can also be transitive if a feeling suddenly comes over you or an emotion that affects you in a strong way. You would say that that emotion came over you.

A wave of anger came over him.

So whether a phrasal verb is transitive or intransitive, it’s important to know because it helps you to understand how to use it correctly.

3. Separable or Inseparable?

Now in addition to knowing if a phrasal verb is transitive or intransitive, you also need to know if you also need to know if it’s separable or inseparable and this is as simple as it sounds!

Separable means that the verb and the particle are able to be separated in the sentence. So for example, the phrasal verb “take on” which means to become responsible for something. It’s a transitive phrasal verb it doesn’t make sense on its own.

I’m going to take on the project.

But we can also say I’m going to take the project on.

We can separate the words in the phrasal verb so it’s separable.

Now an inseparable phrasal verb means that we can’t separate the main verb from the other words in the phrasal verb. No way!

Let’s go back to the example “look up to”. So we know that this is a transitive phrasal verb. It’s also an inseparable phrasal verb. You can’t separate the words in the phrasal verb. It’s not possible to say “look someone up to” or “look up someone to”. It just doesn’t work because it’s inseparable.

Here’s an example of how it could work though.

I really look up to your dad.

Now learning whether a phrasal verb is transitive or intransitive or separable or inseparable, right from the start, will help you to use it correctly from now on.

So when you learn a new phrasal verb, it’s really important that you write it down. Write down a few awesome sentences of your own just to practise using the phrasal verb and applying the rules that I’ve just mentioned.

4. Phrasal Verbs are multi-word verbs

Now, phrasal verbs are just multi-word verbs. So they need to be treated like any other verb in a sentence. They need to show us which tense is being used and they need to match the subject that they’re being used with.

I give up! It’s too hard.
He always gives up without really trying.
We’re not giving up yet!
I thought you’d given up!

See how the verb changes each time with the tense.

5. Find the right Phrasal Verbs to practise.

Next tip. Find the right phrasal verbs to practise.

Firstly, don’t type “phrasal verbs” into Google don’t type “phrasal verbs” into Google and try to memorise them. This will completely overwhelm you! You need to look for and find the phrasal verbs that are relevant to you and that are commonly used because there are thousands of phrasal verbs in English but you will never need to know all of them!

But you will need to know the ones that are coming up in your life. Right? The important ones for you.

So you need to look for them. Read the news. Read blogs that you love. Read the transcripts of TEDTalks. Read magazines and articles that are related to your profession.

For example, take a blog post from your favourite English about English or just written in English. Go through it and highlight all of the phrasal verbs that you see. Study how they’re used.

Another great way to look for how phrasal verbs are used is to use Google or any other search engine to search for specific phrasal verbs in the news search tab. So I’ll type in the phrasal verb. Let’s try “put up” and that’s going to bring up a whole list of current examples where that phrasal verb has been used in context.

Look! Breaking Bad house owners put up fence. So they built a fence.
Here, someone will be put up for sale. So he’s made available for sale.
Another. Signs will be put up.
Women don’t have to put up with something.

These are all different ways that this phrasal verb can be used.

Anyway the point is you’re exploring which phrasal verbs are commonly used in recently written documents online. You’re learning them in context and often in a context that’s interesting to you!

6. Practise using phrasal verbs (in the right way)

Now, practise using phrasal verbs in the right way. Focus on topics, not on alphabetical lists because that is how you’re going to use phrasal verbs while writing or talking about a topic or issue. For example, if you’re planning to take a holiday soon think about all of the phrasal verbs you might use on your trip.

Get on the bus.
Take off in the plane.
Pick up the hire car.
Pack up your suitcase.
Go out for dinner.

Hang out with friends.

And if you don’t know all the phrasal verbs that you might need, then try looking at a blog post about the topic to inspire you or search YouTube for a lesson that can help you to learn this vocabulary. Or go to a list of phrasal verbs and see which ones will be helpful to talk about travel. But don’t forget to pay attention to whether they’re transient or intransient, separable or inseparable.

Another great way to practise is to start with a list of phrasal verbs is to start with a list of phrasal verbs They could be the ones that you highlighted earlier from the blog post. Remember? Now try to write your own story using the phrasal verbs. So use a dictionary if you need to and check the meaning. And to check if they are transitive or intransitive, or separable or inseparable because the dictionary will tell you that!

Now let me show you with an example. Take these phrasal verbs, as the example.

  • Hang out
  • Look after
  • Take over
  • Put away
  • Clean up

On Thursdays I look after my nephew in the evening, because my sister works late. I only live over the road, so I usually take over dinner and we have a picnic in the back garden. He’s very cute but very cheeky. I spend most of my time putting away his toys and cleaning up after him. But I love to hang out with him!

So I just built a really simple story about this list of phrasal verbs. Now it doesn’t have to be true and it doesn’t have to be really intelligent but it challenges you to think creatively but it challenges you to think creatively and to use these phrasal verbs.

So, those are my top tips for learning and using English phrasal verbs. Do you have any other tips that you want to share with everyone here? Add them to the comments, I’d love to see your suggestions.

I’ll be making more videos about phrasal verbs soon but for now, why don’t you check out these lessons right here? And make sure you subscribe to the mmmEnglish YouTube channel just here so that you never miss a lesson!

Thanks for watching and I will see you next time. Bye for now!

mmmEnglish Video Lessons are a series of video lessons created to build confidence in English learners and focus on English in daily life. Download them and watch them anywhere! Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to be the first to get my new videos, and come and say hi on my Facebook page!!