Everybody complains about phrasal verbs. And with some justification, I suppose.
It doesn't help that in books they're referred to as 'phrasal verbs' and 'multi-word verbs' and 'prepositional verbs' and whatever other name may be fashionable or grammatically correct at a particular time.
You know what they are, and so do I. They're verbs followed by what is sometimes called a 'particle'. This 'particle' is either a preposition or an adverb, or possibly one of each. Most people think it's a preposition. Personally I don't think it matters whether or not you know it's a preposition or an adverb.
I can't speak for other English teachers, but I can only decide if the word is a preposition by seeing which type the verb is (see below). If I don't know immediately, then I don't expect people who are learning the language to know. It doesn't help you to remember the verb either.
So don't worry about prepositions and adverbs. Call them whatever you want. The most important thing is that you should understand as many phrasal verbs as possible and be able to use them. English people use them all the time.
Unfortunately there's no easy way of learning them. All I can do here is show the basic uses and types. For meanings or equivalent 'normal' verbs, you'll need to buy a good dictionary or a phrasal verb grammar book.
List of phrasal verbs
Everybody seems to want a list of phrasal verbs, so I've chosen what I think are the most common phrasal verbs you can generally use in a work situation.
It is not - and never will be - a complete list of all the phrasal verbs we use regularly. And it doesn't include easy verbs which are used literally, such as go in, sit down and so on.
I've given some examples in each case, and if there's a noun formed from the verb, I've usually given that too.
Click on the appropriate letter the verb begins with to be taken to the list. As usual there's a printer-friendly version you can access from the bottom of the page, and also a practice matching exercise for each page.
Uses of phrasal verbs
We use phrasal verbs in three ways:
The majority of phrasal verbs are used in this way. All you need to know is what the two words mean when considered separately. You shouldn't really have any problems here. Or not many.
This way of using phrasal verbs is less common. Sometimes the meaning is literal - the rain pours down - and sometimes it isn't - you eat up your dinner. Obviously rain pours down because of gravity. Eating up your dinner gives us the idea of finishing it completely.
The non-literal uses are a bit difficult to explain and understand. However, because verbs are used in this way to intensify or emphasise, the general meaning is the same if you just use the verb alone (eat your dinner, pour with rain, etc).
In other words, you'll have no problem understanding the verbs when you hear them.
With these verbs, knowing what the individual parts mean doesn't help you to understand. You need to learn the meanings of each verb as a whole.
There are four types of phrasal verbs. It might help you to know this, but equally it might not. If you find it confusing, don't worry too much. There are various ways of learning phrasal verbs, and knowing the specific type is not necessary.
However, knowing what type a verb is can be useful for two reasons. Firstly, it shows you the grammatical construction, and secondly, some verbs can be more than one type and change meaning accordingly.
The four types do not correspond to the uses I mentioned above. Each particular type can include verbs with literal and non-literal meanings.
Type 1 verbs
These verbs don't have an object.
Because there's no object, you don't have to worry about where to put it!
The main difficulty is when a verb can be more than one type. For example, a plane can take off (no object), but a person can take off a coat (with object). This second example would not be a 'Type 1' verb.
Another problem is when a verb can have more than one meaning but remain the same type. A chicken can go off, for example, which means it's old and bad and can't be eaten. But a person can go off, too, which means the same as go away.
Type 2 verbs
These verbs have an object, and this object can go after the verb or between the two parts of the verb.
When you don't use a pronoun, it doesn't really matter where you put the object. We generally put the object where it sounds better.
If the object is very long - it could include a relative clause, for example - it will probably sound better after the verb.
If you use a pronoun, you have to put it between the two words of the verb.
Type 3 verbs
These verbs have an object, but the object must go after the verb. It doesn't matter whether it's a pronoun or not.
Type 4 verbs
These are the same as Type 3 verbs, but they have three words instead of two. The object must go after the verb.
There are a number of ways of learning phrasal verbs:
Personally, I think trying to learn verbs from a list is boring and quite difficult. It's better to learn them for different situations, then there's more chance that you'll remember them.
Even easier is to treat them as you treat any other vocabulary you learn. Don't think of them as a special subject that has to be learnt. They're only words! If you find a useful phrasal verb, learn it like you would learn the word for 'table' or 'ashtray' or anything else.
But make sure you write down the structure. It's useless to note down that turn off means apagar in Spanish if you don't know how to use it. The absolute minimum you need to note down is turn something off, because then you'll know where the object goes.
Even better would be to note down a couple of sentences using the verb so that you have a context to remember it in.
Links to exercises and pdf files
notes from this page - pdf file for download or printing
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