Learning phrasal verbs is one of the most challenging tasks for the person who wants to improve their level of English proficiency. Many argue that even acquaintance with all the times English doesn’t seem so complicated. The purpose of this article is to facilitate this process and to share important information.


What is a phrasal verb? This can be a combination of:

  • Verb + preposition.
  • Verb + adverb.
  • Verb + adverb + preposition.

A phrasal verb is a consistent semantic unit, which is one part of the sentence. Most often the value of a phrasal verb differs significantly from the translation of the main verb.

Why is it important to study these semantic units? Phrasal verbs are constantly used in everyday speech, so without them you will be hard to understand the interlocutor or to catch the meaning read the book. Moreover, in any international test, you will meet phrasal verbs.

Classification of phrasal verbs

First and foremost, all phrasal verbs are divided into transitive and intransitive:

1. Transitive or transitive phrasal verbs. These verbs require a direct object:

I have turned down his proposal.
I rejected his offer.

John decided to put off his plans.
John decided to postpone their plans.

2. Intransitive or intransitive phrasal verbs. After such verbs do not require a direct object:

He goes on foot, because his car has broken down.
He goes on foot, because his car broke down.

Also, phrasal verbs can be both shared and nonshared:

1. Non-separable or inseparable phrasal verbs. It’s all intransitive and some transitive verbs. For better understanding consider the example in the phrasal verb run into:

His car ran into the tree.
His car collided with a tree.

We can’t separate the two parts of the phrasal verb, in other words. That is an option His car ran into the tree is wrong.

2. Share, or separable phrasal verbs. In the case of these phrasal verbs, the addition can be placed either after the verb or between its parts:

You should turn off the music.
You should turn the music off.
You should turn off the music.

Both of these option are correct.

Attention! If the addition is expressed by a pronoun, the phrasal verb is necessarily divided:

Mary took off her dress.
Mary took the dress.

Mary took it off.
Mary took it off.

Mary took it off
this option is invalid.

From this information we can draw some conclusions: the main difficulty of learning phrasal verbs are associated not only with the amount of material, but also with the inability independently to classify. In order to avoid mistakes in use, need regular practice. It is also worth remembering that many phrasal verbs have multiple meanings. For example, get off means to remove, to go, to get out, to go, to escape. Therefore, you need to be very careful.

Is it possible to learn all the phrasal verbs?

No, it’s not necessary. Today in the English language presents more than 5,000 phrasal verbs, of which is consistently used for only a few hundred. In order to study the main semantic units, you will need to learn the most common phrasal verbs. This can be done using charts from the Internet or special publications.

The meaning of many phrasal verbs can be understood intuitively. It really is much easier than memorization of Latin. In addition, during communication with the American or reading books in the original should definitely rely on the context. Most likely, you will be able to guess what was going on.

Basic phrasal verbs

Here is a short list of the most common semantic units:

  • Back away – retreat.
  • Be back to back.
  • Be over – come to an end.
  • Be up – to Wake up.
  • Break out – break out/break out.
  • Calm down – calm down.
  • Carry on – to continue a case.
  • Check in – to register.
  • Come in – to enter, to arrive.
  • Cut off – to cut off, to stop.
  • Dream up – to invent.
  • Eat out – to eat out.
  • Fall down – to collapse.
  • Find out to find out, to know.
  • Get away – to escape.
  • Give up – to retreat.
  • Hold on – hold on!
  • Look for – to find.
  • Look forward to – to wait.
  • Move on – to continue, to go on.
  • Pull on – wear.
  • Run away – to escape.
  • Set up – set.
  • Stand up – rise to the standing position.
  • Switch off/on – disable/enable.
  • Take off – remove (clothes), to serve.
  • Wake up – to Wake up.
  • Watch out to be careful, alert.
  • Work up – develop.
  • Write down – to write on paper.

Strategy study

Your task is not just to memorize phrasal verbs, and learn to study them consciously, with understanding. It will have to give this exercise at least 5 days a week. If you can remember at least 7-15 phrasal verbs, this can be considered a success. Do not try to learn as much as possible semantic units in one sitting: most likely, after a few days you’ll have forgotten at least half of them. It’s better to learn gradually, but regularly.

How to teach phrasal verbs? Many people try to achieve the desired goal only with the help of special tables or dictionaries. However, you can greatly simplify your task, using a variety of textbooks. Give preference to British and American authors.

What books to choose?

Consider a few of the benefits that can be useful in the study of phrasal verbs:

1. Really learn 100 phrasal verbs (Oxford University Press). With this tutorial, you should start learning phrasal verbs. Structured manual will slowly but surely learn the most common semantic units. Each of the verbs is devoted to approximately 1 printed page. First you will be asked to guess the meaning of the verb on the basis of a couple of examples, then you will be able to check their guesses. You’ll find detailed information about the meaning of the verb and to practice. A special section is devoted to the development of knowledge around the material of the textbook. Tip: learn the verbs randomly and not in order.

2. Longman Phrasal Verbs Dictionary. This is an advanced dictionary that includes approximately 5,000 modern phrasal verbs in English. The author presents all values phrasal verbs. Entries accompanied by the comprehensive explanations. The book also contains a lot of useful and simple tables.

3. English Phrasal Verbs in Use. This is a great publication for advanced students. The book is an excellent theoretical guide, with a great number of diverse exercises for practicing the acquired knowledge. In total, the tutorial offers 70 different topics. At the end of the book offers a mini-dictionary of phrasal verbs.

4. Phrasal Verbs Plus (Macmillan). This is one of the new dictionaries, which describes in detail the grammatical and semantic aspects of the use of phrasal verbs. The author always accompanies the explanations with examples. The book was created with the modern life style: the verbs that are used in business, Economics, the Internet, etc. Funny comics illustrating common phrases make the process of learning new verbs is more positive.

Additional recommendations

As unclaimed information is quickly forgotten, you should reevaluate your life. First, try to find time to read books or magazines in English. This will help you not only consolidate the knowledge but also learn to understand the meaning of the phrasal verbs in context. Second, use every opportunity to communicate with people in English. Ideally you should enroll in English or work on Skype. Also, you may find the interest group. Importantly, that study did not been for you the tedious effort and hard work, strive for diversity.

Thirdly, be organized. Pre-plan your own personal study and stick to the schedule. Many decide to abandon the study of phrasal verbs, faced the first problems. But it’s not as scary as it might seem at first glance. Don’t forget about motivation!