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Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
What are phrasal verbs and how do you use them?
Tuesday December 2nd 2014
Question
What are phrasal verbs and how do you use them?
Answer

What is a phrasal verb? A phrasal verb is a group of words that functions as a verb and is made up of a verb plus a preposition, an adverb, or both. They are important in English. Here are 3 phrasal verbs that you may already know:

  • check in     Guests cannot check in at the hotel before 4:00 PM.
  • give in       The workers’ strike has been going on for weeks, and neither side seems willing to give in.
  • look out for   In the winter, drivers need to look out for icy spots on the roads.

Why are phrasal verbs important? It is important to learn phrasal verbs because they are very common in English, and because the meaning of a verb often changes significantly when it is used in a phrasal verb.

For example, the verb grow usually means to become larger or increase in amount, but the phrasal verb grow up means to become an adult or start behaving in a mature way, as shown in these examples:

  • She's letting her hair grow. (grow = increase in length)
  • She wants to be a firefighter when she grows up. (grow up = become an adult)
  • It's time for him to grow up and start accepting his responsibilities. (grow up = behave in a mature way)

What is the best way to learn how to use phrasal verbs? The best way to learn how a phrasal verb is to look it up on LearnersDictionary.com and read the example sentences that show how it is used. The example sentences have been selected to illustrate the correct use of these words.

One more thing: Phrasal verbs less appropriate in formal language. If you are writing a formal document or an academic essay, try to avoid using phrasal verbs and use more formal alternatives instead. You can find alternatives in the dictionary. 

 

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