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Top Tips for Learning Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are one of the trickiest aspects of the English language to learn, but they are a very useful and unique feature of English.

This blog aims to provide you with practical strategies to enhance your comprehension, expand your vocabulary, and confidently incorporate these expressions into your everyday English usage.

What is a phrasal verb? A phrasal verb is a type of verb that consists of a main verb and one or more particles (adverb / preposition*) Together they create a new meaning. These combinations can be idiomatic and have meanings that cannot be deduced from the individual words. Examples include "give up," "take off," and "get on with".

*Technically, only verbs + adverb are phrasal verbs, while verbs + prepositions are called prepositional verbs, but for the purpose of this blog we don't need to worry about that.

Learning phrasal verbs can be a daunting task, but with the right approach, you can improve your understanding and fluency in English.

Here are eight top tips for mastering phrasal verbs:

1. Think about them as one idea.

The key to mastering phrasal verbs is to focus on each one as a single new idea. Avoid thinking about them as two separate words and learn them as you would with any other new piece of vocabulary.

2. Don't expect to know them.

You may recognize the verb and the particle(s), but don't expect to know the new idea. It's a completely new concept, so just learn it!

3. Forget the space.

The words themselves are not the problem, but the space between the verb and particle can be. The space makes us see them as two words when we really need to think of them as one. If you were given a single new word, you would simply learn it.

4. Avoid translating from your native language.

If you translate, you are unlikely to come up with phrasal verbs as you might in natural English. An example of this is if we translate rifiutare from Italian, google would provide us with the English to reject, but a much more natural way is to say turn down.

5. Learn Phrasal Verbs by Topic

Organize your notes by topic, such as weather, work, or relationships, to help you learn them in context. This helps your brain think lexically and focuses on meaning and use which is much better for retaining language.

6. Focus on the Particle

The particle in a phrasal verb often carries more logical meaning than the verb itself. When trying to work out the meaning of a phrasal verb, think about the particle first. Don't organize phrasal verbs by the verb, as this can add to confusion.

7. Notice and Adopt

Try to notice phrasal verbs when you read and listen to English. Pay attention to the context in which they are used. Make a note of them and then adopt them into your vocabulary. Trust the phrasal verbs that you learn in context. Context is Key.

8. Trust them!

Finally, don't avoid phrasal verbs! Trust them! They are an integral part of the English language and using them will make your English sound more natural. Embrace the challenge of learning phrasal verbs and get involved in using them in your speech and writing. Mastering phrasal verbs takes time and effort, but with these top tips, you can improve your understanding and fluency in English.


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