A phrasal verb is the combination of a standard verb such as make or put with one or two particles. In some cases the particle is an adverb such as away, together; in others it is a preposition such as through, in. Here are a few examples of the many hundreds of English phrasal verbs: pass away, pull together, fall through, make do with, put down to.
[ Return to the Phrasal Verbs index. ]
Phrasal verbs are one of the most difficult aspects for learners of the English language. There are three main reasons for this:
|She put down the baby.||She put the baby down.|
|The teacher put the student down.||The teacher put down the student.|
|The student put her bad grade down to tiredness.||The student put down her bad grade to tiredness.|
Phrasal verbs are very important for learners because they are so prevalent in everyday spoken and informal written language. Not only do learners need to understand the more common phrasal verbs, but they will also need to use them themselves. If they don't, and use a more formal synonym, they run the risk of sounding pompous or ridiculous to native speakers. Imagine, for example, your friend telling you Oh, do desist from talking! instead of Oh, do shut up! or Oh, do belt up! or Oh, do pipe down!
The phrasal verbs listed on this website are those that, in the opinion of the webmaster, are among the most useful for English learners to learn first. Only idiomatic phrasal verbs that are likely to cause difficulties to language learners have been included. The definition listed for each phrasal verb is generally very short and should be regarded as the first step in the learning process. The example sentences are the second, more useful step in the process of understanding the verb and the contexts in which is is used. The third step is to look at the additional information that is listed for some verbs.
The Collins Cobuild Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs is recommended for learners who want to more examples of this difficult but important aspect of English grammar. There is a comprehensive list of phrasal verbs on the UsingEnglish website.
For teachers: There is an analysis of phrasal verbs in: Lui, Dilin. "The Most Frequently Used English Phrasal Verbs in American and British English: A Multicorpus Examination." TESOL Quarterly 45.4 (2011): 661-688.