5 Secrets to Learning Phrasal Verbs

If you’re like most English learners, you hate phrasal verbs. And I don’t blame you. Mastering these peculiar verbs isn’t easy. So many English students get frustrated and lose hope because they just can’t figure out how to learn them. 

The good news is: if you’re reading this post, then you haven’t given up yet! That’s probably because you know that learning phrasal verbs can drastically improve your English speaking and comprehension skills.

Now, what if I told you that learning how to use phrasal verbs in your conversations is entirely possible? It’s simply the result of using the right techniques. I’m not saying that the methods I’m going to show you are the only ones out there. But over the years I’ve spent time studying the best ways to teach phrasal verbs and today I want to share with you 5 secrets I’ve learned from my experience and research.

Let’s begin!

1. Don’t group them by verb.

The most common method I’ve seen in textbooks, classrooms and online is to group the phrasal verbs by a particular verb. For example, you might have searched Google for a list of phrasal verbs with get and found a list that looks like this:

  • Get up
  • Get over
  • Get through
  • Get back at
  • Get away with

Not only is this the worst way to learn phrasal verbs, but it’s also the fastest way to make yourself hate them. Why? Because you’re trying to memorize a bunch of words that all look the same but have completely different meanings. And that’s confusing! There is absolutely no logical connection between these words, but our brains need connections to comprehend and absorb information properly. So, what’s a better way to learn them?

2. Group them by particle (up, off, out, away, etc.)

Now that we know what NOT to do when learning phrasal verbs, let’s look at a four other methods that are more effective. 

Instead of grouping them by verb, organizing phrasal verbs by particle can help you make relevant connections between them. That’s because the particles have tendencies, and if you understand these tendencies, it’ll make learning phrasal verbs a bit easier. 

So, you might be wondering: “What's a particle?” 

Each phrasal verb is composed of a verb and a particle. Let’s look at the phrasal verb sell out as an example:

Verb    +    particle
Sell        out

The particle out can signify a few things. For example, we tend to use it when there is no more of something. So if you go to the bakery and you find out that they sold all their bread, you can say,

“They sold out of bread.” or “They’re out of bread.”

Out can also imply that something stopped existing, ended or disappeared. To illustrate, let’s look at a couple of examples with the phrasal verb go out:

“If you don’t add wood, the fire will go out.”

Which means: If you don’t add wood, the fire will stop burning

“There was a storm last night, and the power went out in the whole city.”

Which means: There was a storm last night, and the power stopped working in the whole city.

So do you see why understanding the particles and their possible meanings is so important? This will take time and practice because out has many different tendencies, but it’s definitely worth your time and effort. It will at least give you an idea of what the phrasal verb could mean. 

You can learn more about particles and their tendencies from a good phrasal verb dictionary. My personal favorite is Macmillan Phrasal Verbs Plus because: it’s easy to use, it highlights the most frequently used English phrasal verbs, and it has detailed information about each particle and their different uses and meanings.

3. Group them by topic

An even better way to learn phrasal verbs is to organize them by subject. For example, you could create a phrasal verb list for expressing emotions, describing friends or talking about love and relationships. This has worked really well for my students because:

  1. There is a link between the different verbs.
  2. Organizing them by topic makes them more relatable and interesting to learn
  3. You are learning how to use them in your everyday life and not just memorizing their abstract meanings

4. Learn them in context

This is the method I use the most in my lessons. Learning phrasal verbs in context by watching YouTube videos, listening to songs or reading any authentic content is so powerful because you can see how we use them in real life. 
For example, when you’re watching your favorite TV show you can:
  1. Look for the written transcript on Google.
  2. Write down the phrasal verbs you find in the transcript.
  3. Look up their meanings in the dictionary.
  4. Read some example sentences on Phrasal Verb Demon.
  5. Practice making your own sentences.
  6. Create flashcards and test yourself regularly.

5. Use them in a story 

Another effective way to learn and practice phrasal verbs is to create a story with them. If you like writing fiction, you can create a short story using a few phrasal verbs. If not, then you can simply write a paragraph related to your life. This will help you create connections between the words and your experiences and as we mentioned earlier, it’ll help you immensely in remembering them. 

If you need some inspiration, here is an example from Marina, one of my students. She created this little story to practice using phrasal verbs to describe friends in context:

“Yesterday, I ran into Mathilde, an old friend from high school. We grew apart but I remember nothing could come between us. We’ve never let each other down. She has always stuck up for me. I heard from Michel she’s still single. Maybe I should try to fix her up with my brother.“

There is no magic method for learning phrasal verbs. It takes time, patience and commitment. If you want to sound more natural when speaking English, you need to take the time to practice phrasal verbs and get more confident with using them. But not all methods are effective. So, try the techniques you learned today and make a commitment to practice regularly. Share your examples below and if you found this useful, please spread the knowledge and share it with your friends.
September 27, 2019
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Become a more confident, fluent and natural English speaker! If you feel stuck in English, book your lessons now. I help students just like you every day! What would your life be like if English was not a limitation? ★ Would you be able to have conversations in English without getting stuck? ★ Would you be able to express your personality and be yourself in English? ★ Would you be able to understand fast English speakers? ★ Would you have more work options? ★ Would you be able to answer interview questions confidently? My lessons are perfect for you if: ★ You are worried that others won't understand your pronunciation. ★ You forget words and grammar when speaking. ★ You need to prepare for interviews and presentations. ★ You are an intermediate or advanced English learner. ★ You're thinking about living in Canada or the US, or moved there recently. ★ You are finding it difficult to understand and communicate with people in English. I've been helping English learners become more fluent and natural speakers for over ten years. My mission is to help you transcend your limitations in English and finally experience the progress that will help you achieve your dreams. Here's how you'll benefit from my lessons: ★ Gain the confidence to express yourself in English. ★ Learn real conversation and natural vocabulary. ★ Understand fast native English conversations. ★ Improve your pronunciation and reduce your accent. ★ Learn more about North American culture, how to connect with people. If you have moved to the US recently, I can help you learn the English you need to make new friends, communicate with colleagues, and adapt to the culture easily. I have limited hours available, so book your lessons now! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to send me a message. I look forward to working with you! MORE ABOUT ME I'm a certified English teacher from Canada with over 10 years of experience. I'm also a writer. I write articles to help students achieve their goals in English. I've always loved traveling, so in 2012 I traveled to Europe and I lived and taught English in Italy, Spain and the Canary Islands for 5 years. I returned to Canada in 2017 and I now live in Victoria, a beautiful city in Western Canada, 2 hours away from Vancouver. I still travel when I can. I spent 3 months in Taiwan last year. And I fell in love with the country's beautiful nature, culture and people. When I first started teaching in 2010, I taught in classrooms. Like every other teacher, I used textbooks or lessons that I found online. Planning my classes was SO frustrating, because a lot of the books and learning websites taught a style of English that native speakers NEVER use in real life. 😑 I thought that if the lessons were boring for me to teach, of course they would be boring for my students, too! This inspired me to design my own lessons. I looked for short, recent videos, articles and blog posts that discuss interesting topics, and designed lessons around them. My students love them! They are excited to learn, are never bored, and experience incredible progress in just a few months. What's the secret to fluent and natural English? REAL, authentic and interesting materials! There's no other way. This way, you'll start to understand fast native speakers and improve your speaking quickly when you're learning naturally: using the new words and grammar to follow a real story or video, not just to learn a lot of boring rules! You’ll also learn how to use common words and expressions that traditional language schools NEVER teach you. Book your lessons today, and let me show you how you can finally speak English confidently and without stress!
Flag
English
globe
Canada
time
231
Speaks:
English
Native
,
Spanish
A2
,
Italian
A2
Become a more confident, fluent and natural English speaker! If you feel stuck in English, book your lessons now. I help students just like you every day! What would your life be like if English was not a limitation? ★ Would you be able to have conversations in English without getting stuck? ★ Would you be able to express your personality and be yourself in English? ★ Would you be able to understand fast English speakers? ★ Would you have more work options? ★ Would you be able to answer interview questions confidently? My lessons are perfect for you if: ★ You are worried that others won't understand your pronunciation. ★ You forget words and grammar when speaking. ★ You need to prepare for interviews and presentations. ★ You are an intermediate or advanced English learner. ★ You're thinking about living in Canada or the US, or moved there recently. ★ You are finding it difficult to understand and communicate with people in English. I've been helping English learners become more fluent and natural speakers for over ten years. My mission is to help you transcend your limitations in English and finally experience the progress that will help you achieve your dreams. Here's how you'll benefit from my lessons: ★ Gain the confidence to express yourself in English. ★ Learn real conversation and natural vocabulary. ★ Understand fast native English conversations. ★ Improve your pronunciation and reduce your accent. ★ Learn more about North American culture, how to connect with people. If you have moved to the US recently, I can help you learn the English you need to make new friends, communicate with colleagues, and adapt to the culture easily. I have limited hours available, so book your lessons now! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to send me a message. I look forward to working with you! MORE ABOUT ME I'm a certified English teacher from Canada with over 10 years of experience. I'm also a writer. I write articles to help students achieve their goals in English. I've always loved traveling, so in 2012 I traveled to Europe and I lived and taught English in Italy, Spain and the Canary Islands for 5 years. I returned to Canada in 2017 and I now live in Victoria, a beautiful city in Western Canada, 2 hours away from Vancouver. I still travel when I can. I spent 3 months in Taiwan last year. And I fell in love with the country's beautiful nature, culture and people. When I first started teaching in 2010, I taught in classrooms. Like every other teacher, I used textbooks or lessons that I found online. Planning my classes was SO frustrating, because a lot of the books and learning websites taught a style of English that native speakers NEVER use in real life. 😑 I thought that if the lessons were boring for me to teach, of course they would be boring for my students, too! This inspired me to design my own lessons. I looked for short, recent videos, articles and blog posts that discuss interesting topics, and designed lessons around them. My students love them! They are excited to learn, are never bored, and experience incredible progress in just a few months. What's the secret to fluent and natural English? REAL, authentic and interesting materials! There's no other way. This way, you'll start to understand fast native speakers and improve your speaking quickly when you're learning naturally: using the new words and grammar to follow a real story or video, not just to learn a lot of boring rules! You’ll also learn how to use common words and expressions that traditional language schools NEVER teach you. Book your lessons today, and let me show you how you can finally speak English confidently and without stress!