Lesson Summary 

Make sure you’re using phrasal verbs correctly: Check with Grammarly! https://www.grammarly.com/mmmenglish

In this lesson, you’ll learn 6 phrasal verbs using the verb PICK.

Phrasal verbs are groups of words in English, made up of a verb and either one or two particles. A particle can be either a preposition, like ‘up’ or an adverb like ‘together’.

To learn more about phrasal verbs watch this video: https://youtu.be/8-ktHXX0BkI where I share my top tips for learning them!

Phrasal verbs are a frustrating!!
Often, one phrasal verb can have more than one meaning.
Often they are idiomatic, so the meaning is not obvious.
Not every phrasal verb follows the same rules – some are transitive, some are intransitive, some are separable or inseparable, or both!

But ignoring them is NOT an option, because they are soooo common. They come up in conversation all the time.
You’ll hear me use them in my lessons, all the time!

Make sure you check out the transcript on my blog to see just how many phrasal verbs I used during this lesson!

Phrasal verbs in this lesson:
– Pick at
– Pick up
– Pick up on
– Pick out
– Pick on
– Pick off

CLICK HERE to read the full lesson transcript.

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Video Transcript
Section 1
Hey! This is Emma from mmmEnglish! In this lesson, you’re going to learn six phrasal verbs using the verb ‘pick‘.

Now, you know all about phrasal verbs by now, don’t you? You probably can’t stand them! But the truth is, you need to understand them and you need to recognise them when you see them and hear them. And of course, you need to learn how to use them!

They are just so commonly used in English. I’m always surprised by how many times I hear them in conversation or how many times I read them when I’m looking through a blog post. They’re everywhere!

But they are frustrating to learn! The same phrasal verb can have different meanings and rules that you need to understand and they’re not always the same. Some phrasal verbs are really common.. others, not so much.

But don’t worry we’re going to go over some of the common phrasal verbs using the verb, ‘pick‘. Let’s dive in!

Pick At

Phrasal verbs are made up of a verb and either a preposition or an adverb like ‘pick at’. Now, this is a phrasal verb that is transitive and inseparable. If you’re not sure what that means, I’ve made a whole other video about it right here. But this phrasal verb is inseparable because the words can’t be separated. They need to stay together at all times. And it’s transitive because it doesn’t make any sense on its own.

You can’t just pick at. Pick at what? You need to pick at something, like food.

Children often pick at their food!

Or someone who’s distracted or disappointed, annoyed or upset, usually they pick at their food when they’re eating. You’ve done this before! When you only eat a small amount because you’re not really interested in it so you just push the food around your plate.

Awful! He hardly made eye contact at all and he just picked at his dinner all night. I don’t think I’ll see him again.

To ‘pick at‘ can also mean to touch something many times in an annoying way It’s often used with sores.

Pick Off

To ‘pick off‘. Now, this means to remove. This phrasal verb is separable, the words can be separated.

Order whatever pizza you want, I’ll just pick the mushrooms off!
I’ll just pick off the mushrooms.

Pick On

Now, this phrasal verb is not the opposite of ‘pick off‘ and that’s one of the annoying things about English phrasal verbs, they’re not always logical.

To pick on someone means to bully them or be mean or cruel to them.

At school, the smaller, quieter children are often picked on by the bigger children.
Teenagers often pick on the new kid at school.

If you’re being picked on at school, you should talk to the teacher about it.

Pick on‘ is also transitive, so you must always say what is being picked on.

Have you heard of the expression ‘Pick on someone your own size?‘. It’s used for telling someone to stop criticising or attacking someone else who is smaller or weaker than them. It’s very common!

Pick Out

Pick out‘. This is also a transitive phrasal verb and it’s most often used when you’re choosing or or recognising something from a bigger group. So for example:

Pick out one of the pastries to buy for your grandma.
He’s really tall, easy to pick out in a crowd!

Pick Up

Okay, so far so good, right? But what about ‘pick up‘?

Pick up‘ is a little more complicated because there are lots of different ways that you can use this phrasal verb but don’t let that scare you! It’s also one of the most frequently used phrasal verbs so it’s worth spending some extra time on. It can mean to lift something up from the ground or the floor or a table, any flat surface really.

Can you pick up the baby?
There was rubbish on the ground, so I picked it up.

See how this phrasal verb can be separable or inseparable – either way is correct.

It can also mean to get someone in a car.

I need to pick up Tom at 6 o’clock.
Hi mum, it’s me! It’s raining and I forgot an umbrella, can you come pick me up?

It can also mean to collect something.

Can you pick up dinner on the way home? 
Your dry cleaning is ready to be picked up.

Pick up‘ can also mean to improve or increase or get stronger.

It was so nice at the beach this morning, until the wind picked up.
The train was picking up speed as it left the city.

It can also mean to obtain or acquire something, often not a physical object but something like knowledge or a skill.

I lived in Ho Chi Minh City for a year, so I picked up a bit of Vietnamese.
I picked up a cold while I was on holiday.

Okay, last one for ‘pick up‘. And actually, this meaning is quite informal, it’s quite colloquial. It can mean to start talking with someone at a bar or a club, with something else in mind. You’re talking to them because you like the look of them and you might want to go home with them that night. So you can also use ‘pick up‘ to suggest that!

Johnny only comes out with us to pick up girls! 
Sarah went home last night with a guy she picked up at the bar.

Pick Up On

And lastly, to ‘pick up on‘ which can mean to become aware of something. When you pick up on something, it’s not as simple as being told something by someone else. If you pick up on it, you learn about it in little pieces of information that you connect together in your own mind.

So for example, you might pick up on the fact that your sister is upset because her boyfriend broke up with her. That’s another phrasal verb and it means that her boyfriend ended their relationship. But you know about this not because she told you about it but because you observed her behaviour and heard the frustration in her voice. You picked up on it and then you guessed.

Did you hear that Steven’s been fired? Not officially, but I did pick up on it in this morning’s meeting.

Now I know that you get frustrated with the number of phrasal verbs that you need to know. Once you learn a couple, there are literally hundreds that follow!

But don’t give up! My biggest tip is to focus on just a small number, just a handful each week. Make the ones that you learnt in this lesson, your focus this week. Use them in sentences, look for them, study them. Don’t worry about all of the others, Just focus on these ones, this week.

Now make sure you subscribe to my channel, just down there. There’s a new lesson here every week! To learn more about phrasal verbs, watch this video here. I share some really great tips for practising and learning phrasal verbs. Or you could try this playlist down here and listen for phrasal verbs as they’re used in natural conversation with native English speakers.

Thanks for watching and I will see you next week. 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!!