Phrasal Verbs – Help at Last

Most of my students have come to me hating Phrasal Verbs and I am not surprised. These wicked little English Language beasts could not be more confusing if a set of ingenious Ancient Britons had sat down with the deliberate intention of making life difficult for foreigners. Many of them mean several different things. If I ask you to put the cat out should you fetch a fire extinguisher or just open the front door and eject it? Get it wrong and the cat may well be considerably put out.

funny pictures
Enter the ICHC online Poker Cats Contest!

Cats are cute but watch out for their grammar – that should read “you lose it” – or better still, “you have lost it” !!

Many students have enough trouble using prepositions correctly when they just mean time or place, let alone when they are being used metaphorically as they are in Phrasal Verbs. They have no rhyme nor reason apparently and yet any English kid can use them perfectly.

One of the problems is the way they are taught. English grammar books love to give you lists in alphabetical order. There could hardly be a worse way to try and learn Phrasal Verbs. For instance, if you look at all the PVs that begin with “Take” or “Put” they do not have much in common – the point of phrasal verbs is that the preposition changes the meaning of the main verb. You will only get more confused studying them that way. Fortunately there is a great website that teaches them properly (arranged according to the preposition not the verb) and gives you everything you need to understand and learn these pesky problematic PVs. Appropriately it is called

Phrasal Verb Demon

I highly recommend it. Put it in your favourites and try and go there several times a week. Nothing will take away the necessity of spending time learning these verbs – you need to keep at it over a long period to really get the hang of them – but you can make the time you spend much more effective and satisfying. You need not only a definition but also (very importantly) at least one synonym for each verb. And there is no better tool for helping you deal with that than Ultimate Vocabulary. This is the kind of thing that makes that software tool so valuable.

You can also make good daily use of the dictionary resources I tell you about on the Daily Words page

I’ll try and add some good exercise resources from other sites soon and make a special page for Phrasal Verbs here.  However in the meantime, check out my Vocabulary page – you will find some good PV resources towards the end.


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