Today, we will discuss phrasal verbs. (Combinations of verb and a preposition or adverbial particle.) Examples include: Break up. Do up. Get away with. Go in for. See through. Take off.
Students of English often try to get round (avoid) this difficulty by using other, more latin expressions, similar to words in a number of European languages (French, Spanish, Italian, ect.), and may get by (succeed reasonably well) in this way.But this isn’t really English. It will sound rather formal.
English is essentially the result of a mix of Old English, the Germanic language spoken in England before the Norman invasion of 1066, and Norman French, which was the language of the royal court and the aristocracy for two hundred years or so after it. This is one reason why the vocabulary of English is quite large.
In many cases we have a Latin way (derived from Norman French) and a Germanic way of saying the same thing. The phrasal verbs, apart from some modern inventions, are Germanic. Examples include:
Again, but in context:
The rock group broke up after several major hits - Breathe in slowly - Shall we call off the meeting? - Will you come out with us tonight? - Let me find out what next week looks like - We will have to go down these stairs to get to the exit - What’s the hold up with the traffic? - Allow me to work out how much this will cost us.
The phrasal verbs can be learned naturally and systematically, and not just as random items of vocabulary. When you examine them, you will see that most of them contain a picture. When something figuratively breaks up, we can see the term visually.
The easiest phrasal verbs to understand are those that have a literal meaning, usually indicating movement or place.
We can walk in or into a place, across a road, around a hill, away from here, straight by a place, inside a building, off a ramp, onto a ferry, over a bridge, through a shopping centre, or back to our starting point. Alternatively, we can cycle, dash, drive, fly, hurry, jump, leap, march, travel.
“Come in!” she said. “Come into the kitchen.” - She cycled rapidly across the road - We dashed around the statue, hoping to see what was on the other side - We drove away from the hotel, unsatisfied - The plane flew by, leaving a trail of smoke in its wake - I hurried inside, wanting to get out of the rain - We jumped onto the ferry ramp and ran towards the entrance - The athlete leapt over the sandpit - The parading troops marched through the central boulevard - We travelled back to where we had started, content we had done all we could.
NOTE: In phrasal verbs, get very often means go, but there is usually an idea of difficulty:
It was a long meeting. I thought I'd never get away! - The cat climbed the tree but then couldn't get down - The concert was sold out, but we managed to get in by queuing for returned tickets.
In the phrasal verb get something back, get means obtain: I left my umbrella on the train but got it back from the Lost Property Office - I have to go on holiday to get back my sense of perspective.
We can also be around (be somewhere nearby), be away (for a few days or more, perhaps on holiday), be back (returned), be in (the house or the office), be out / be up (out of bed). A tree can be down (fallen), or still up (standing).
Peter must be around here somewhere - Kate is still away, in Tenerife, I think. - "Is George in?" "No, he's out, but he'll be back soon." - It's very early. I don't think they'll be up yet.
Next week, we will delve deeper into the different variations of phrasal verbs.
Written by Sam Kearns, Community Manager.