If you're a native English speaker and not involved in language teaching, you will pause here to ask (as I did one day in my late 20s), what a phrasal verb actually is. In English, they are as natural as breathing and so are not even taught at school. But for non-native speakers they are fiendishly difficult, and if you wish to use them correctly, as native speakers do, there's no alternative but to learn them by heart.
I had my eureka moment this month, doing phrasal verb tests with some of my top students, who are generally very good at communicating in English. But in this test, they were scoring two or three out of 15.
A phrasal verb is one where a preposition or adverb (or both) added after it changes its meaning so it is no longer literal. So, for example, to run - verb. "I run to the shops" In this sentence "to run" is not a phrasal verb, because to preposition "to" that follows it doesn't change its meaning. But "to run across", ("I ran across an old friend in the street), "to run up" ("I had the tailor run up this jacket for me") or "to run up against"("I ran up against a serious problem) most certainly are. "To stick" - lepić; but "to stick out"? Wystawać, odstawać - but where's the association with lepić?
Phrasal verb roots are generally short, simple verbs that even the smallest native-speaking child will understand and use naturally; to go, to get, to take, to do, to look, to put, to bring, to give.
English being an 'onion language' of many layers (Celtic, Germanic, Latin, French, global loanwords) is a language rich in synonym, so many phrasal verbs have perfect or close-matching synonyms. These are usually Latinate in origin.
"I can't endure this any longer" - to endure = to put up with.
"This is a skill I acquired in my last job" - to acquire = to pick up.
Note in the last example the impossibility of direct translation into Polish... To jest umiejętność którą ja podniosłem w mojej ostatniej pracy - a direct and incorrect translation. Incorrect, bo nie można podnieść umiejętność, raczej ją nabyć/ zdobyć/ uzyskać. (A correct translation would be: Jest to umiejętność, którą nabyłem w mojej ostatniej pracy). And hence the difficulty for Poles.
How about some tests then?
What are the phrasal verb equivalents of the underlined words?
- I know him too well to be deceived (__________) by his stories.
- Their children were raised (__________) in the Catholic faith.
- Golf occupies (_______) most of his free time.
- The air show was cancelled (________) because of bad weather.
- The application was rejected (__________) because it wasn't completed (_______) properly.
- He raised (_______) the subject of his promotion again.
Can you offer synonyms for the following phrasal verbs?
- He came down with __________ malaria while working in Africa.
- It’s about time we threw away _________ those old brochures!
- I found out _________ that one of my colleagues has a criminal record.
- We will be shortly handing out _________ landing cards.
- One of our top spies had gone over _______ to the Russians.
- She needs to break out of __________ that boring routine!
These are no-brainers for native English speakers. For non-natives - they can be extremely hard. So I intend to concentrate on teaching phrasal verbs for the next few months. As I said, there's no alternative to just learning them all by heart - and there's thousands of them out there.
This also raises an important point in the management of multinational corporations where English is the main language; should native-speaking managers be made aware of phrasal verbs (especially ones used idiomatically) and be asked to avoid them?
Incidentally, the problem works the other way too. I still have problems in Polish with prefix + verb structures such as wnosić, wynosić, przynosić, donosić, zanosić etc, which function similarly to phrasal verbs. Indeed, this makes for a good introduction to the subject for Polish students of English.
* To work out - to reach a conclusion (dojść do wniosku); to calculate (kalkulować).
This time two years ago:
Putin writes about Molotov-Ribbentrop
This time three years ago:
Summer in the city
This time four years ago:
Last bike ride to work