Is THAT what it means!?
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Is THAT what it means!?

Written by teacher Ante Demo


There is something in the English language learning process that confuses everybody. It can also be frustrating as the meaning and context can vary from combination to combination. Does it go with in, off, on...Yes, you guessed it, I’m talking about phrasal verbs! They are used on a daily basis and are definitely an essential part in the process of becoming an active user of the language.

Phrasal verbs are formed with a verb and prepositions (particles) and are taken literally or non-literally. They are usually disliked by students as there are many irregularities in their use. Leaners usually prefer when something can be clearly defined or explained. Phrasal verbs do not offer simple explanations. This is where the use of context comes into play as this can reveal the meaning of the specific combination. For instance, „set off “can mean to leave or to activate something (They set off at 6 o'clock. / The alarm was set off when the burglars entered). In order to differentiate their meaning, we must rely on C for C, which means Content for Context. The content around the phrasal verb explains what it actually means and whether it is in a literal or non-literal sense.

There are many phrasal verbs and can’t be learnt by heart. The best way to pick them up is by dividing them into categories such as travel, work, exercise... The other possibility is to analyze the use of prepositions and go through their various combinations. Luckily, learners have useful resources on the Internet that can be of great help in the learning process of phrasal verbs. I personally recommend watching sitcoms or reality shows. These are good options because they are informal and native speakers actively use them in face to face communication. There is an abundance of them in these types of shows. I like watching Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay, especially Gordon as he is a gold mine regarding phrasal verbs, ignore the swear words if you decide to watch him and analyze how he uses them in familiar situations.

All in all, don't get discouraged when learning phrasal verbs as it can be a long process. The first step is to recognize them in sentences and then slowly implement them in your own structures. If you manage to master phrasal verbs, you can consider yourself an active user of the English language. Try being active by learning, listening, watching and the various combinations will surely become something natural to you. Phrasal verbs can be fun to learn so enjoy playing around with them!

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