Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number 150. Today we are going to talk about phrasal verbs, and in particular, do we really need them to sound fluent?
Hey everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in. And today we are going to talk about something that I don’t usually talk about, even though it’s a hot topic in the English learning industry. And that is phrasal verbs. And the reason why I want to talk about it is because every time I get into a conversation with my students about what they need and, you know, what they are really struggling with – phrasal verbs always comes up.
There is this continuous struggle that people experience around phrasal verbs. And there are a lot of methods and systems and lists out there designed to help you understand the system behind phrasal verbs. But there’s no system, my friends. Even me, we tried to create this method – teaching phrasal verbs through understanding the particles.
And I think, if we had to choose a system or we had to choose a way to understand phrasal verbs, I think that is the way to do it. We designed it for our private students. So, I think it’s extremely helpful. But at the same time, it’s not the solution for implementing, integrating, assimilating all phrasal verbs.
And in today’s episode, I’m going to talk about the myth of phrasal verbs and, you know, the common mistakes that people make when trying to learn phrasal verb. The common mistake, there’s usually one big mistake that I’m going to share with you today in today’s episode. So, I hope you are going to benefit from it, and maybe change your perspective. And changing perspective always gives us freedom. I mean, it depends on the change. But if it’s a good change, it can allow you more freedom. And, hey, freedom is what we’re after.
If you enjoy listening to this podcast, I would love for you to take a moment and rate and even review the podcast. So, rating the podcast is nothing, it’s just like clicking on the button and choosing the number of stars you want to give this podcast. But if you have another 30 seconds and you can write a few words about the podcast, I would so appreciate it. Because it helps people who don’t know the podcast understand what this podcast is about, and then decide if they want to listen to it or not. So, it really helps this podcast get to more people. So, if you can help me do that, I would really appreciate it. All right, that’s it. So let’s listen to what we came here for – phrasal verbs.
In this episode, we are going to talk about: one – what are phrasal verbs, and are they really that important? Two – what are the consequences of not using phrasal verbs when speaking English? And three – what is the biggest mistake learners make when learning phrasal verbs? Stay tuned.
Now, what are phrasal verbs? A phrasal verb is a combination of two or three words, usually a verb and a preposition, or a verb and an adverb, or a verb and an adverb and a preposition – that create and form an entirely new meaning. For example, “take” – that’s the verb. ‘Take off your clothes’ – undress. ‘Take after’ – look like someone. ‘Take up’ – become interested in something.
Now, as you can see, the reason why it’s so incredibly confusing is because you’re only changing one part of the word – the preposition. Prepositions are just like those small words that we add in between words. And all of a sudden, changing those parts, changing those prepositions changes the meaning of the word completely.
So this is the first reason why it’s so confusing, but also because sometimes a certain phrasal verb might have several different meanings, and all of them are very different from the original verb. ‘Take’ – ‘take up’ – two different words.
Now, phrasal verbs are extremely popular in the language, and people use them informally almost all the time. And the assumption is that in order for you to become fluent in English, and to sound natural, and to master the language you have to know phrasal verbs. Now, for most people, most normal people, phrasal verbs are hard to remember because there are so many of them.
And as we talked about it before, you can’t really tell the meaning of the word by just looking at the particle, the adverb, or the preposition that is associated with it. I mean, sometimes we can get a feeling as to what it means, but generally speaking, you need to know the phrasal verb to know how to use it.
Now, what are the consequences of you not using phrasal verbs? To be honest, nothing’s going to happen. And here’s why. When you are listening to English, and let’s say someone uses a phrasal verb. And you don’t know the meaning of this particular phrasal verb. I mean, you know ‘look away’, you know ‘look up’, you just don’t know what ‘look after’ means.
But then you will hear it in a sentence because phrasal verbs always come in context. And then you might hear someone saying, “Every Wednesday afternoon he looks after his father. He’s such a good kid.” So maybe you don’t know what the meaning of ‘looks after’ is, but you can get it from the context probably, if you’re paying attention.
And even if you’re not, nothing serious happens because it’s okay not to understand a hundred percent of what people are saying to us. So, even if you don’t understand all phrasal verbs, you can understand them from the context. And if you hear the same phrasal verb again and again, and again, and again, you will get it, like you will get any new word that you encounter.
Now, what about not using phrasal verbs? What would be the consequences of that? Will that affect your fluency? No. Because for every phrasal verb, there is another way to say the same thing. Sometimes you have a different word, and sometimes you can use a few other words to explain something. ‘Looks after’ – ‘takes care of’. There you go.
So, if I were the one wanting to say “every Wednesday afternoon he takes care of his father”, I’m still fluent, I still sound natural. Nothing happened after I haven’t used phrasal verbs. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that you don’t need to know phrasal verbs. And I don’t think that you need to give up on learning them. I’m just saying that it’s time to reduce the obsession around phrasal verbs. And I know there is this obsession because I see it with my students.
And I’m also saying that we shouldn’t be using it as a measuring stick for someone’s fluency. Because you can be very fluent and expressive, and sound natural without using a lot of phrasal verbs. For example, in this video, I barely used any phrasal verbs. Did that sound unnatural or less fluent? Probably not, you probably haven’t even noticed. And yet, here it is. I haven’t used a lot of phrasal verbs, and I usually don’t use a lot of phrasal verbs when I speak. I know them, I understand them, I use them in writing. I don’t always use them in speaking. And I’m able to speak. So, I hope I proved my point.
Now, last thing I want to talk to you about is the biggest mistake English learners make when trying to learn phrasal verbs. Here’s the thing. Even though phrasal verbs have the verb, and then different prepositions, or adverbs, or adverbs and prepositions – learning lists of words based on the verb, and just changing the particle, is incredibly hard. Because the meaning is so different, and usually the phrasal verbs have nothing to do with the verb.
So just, you know, creating these lists of words based on the verb is simply not helpful. It doesn’t create this internal system that you can follow. It doesn’t have this, you know, reason that you can comprehend, and according to that, learn it easily. No. It’s just random lists of words. And sometimes, some of the phrases verbs are phrasal verbs that you don’t even need. Yet, you might learn it because you’re learning lists of words based on that one verb.
So, because this is not helpful, what I recommend for you to do is treat each phrasal verb as a new word that you need to learn. Don’t think of it as an element from this complex system of words that you just need to crack and figure out. No, it’s just going to make it harder. Just treat it as single words that you need to learn. And learn only the phrasal verbs that you actually need. Not on a certain list that you’ve found on the internet. Okay?
So, you want to, let’s say you want to incorporate into your speech the phrasal verb ‘look away’ or ‘look after’. Okay? So what you need to do is just go back to my 5-step method for integrating a new word into your day-to-day speech. And that is just understanding how to say it, and then repeating it many, many times – building pronunciation confidence, turning it into a habit.
And then you want to find different sentences online where this phrasal verb is used. You can do it on YouGlish or a simple Google search. Then you want to come up yourself with a few sentences with that phrasal verb. And then you want to use it intentionally when speaking. If you want to find out more about my method for growing your vocabulary, then I’m going to link to that episode in the description below. Okay?
So, make a list of random phrasal verbs that you constantly hear around you and you’d like to use more, or phrasal verbs that you recognize that you need. So make a list of your favorite phrasal verbs. Don’t try to group them any way, because as I said, I think that just makes things more complicated. And then practice saying it out loud many times. Then find sentences with the phrasal verbs and write them down. Then come up with a few sentences on your own with those phrasal verbs, and then use them intentionally when speaking: at work, with friends, in your speaking club. And then, gradually you’ll start using it more and more and more. Yay!
Okay, that’s it. Now tell me, what is your secret when it comes to learning phrasal verbs? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Is it easy or hard? Let me know in the comments. And if you have any other tips for learning and using phrasal verbs, share it in the comments below. Don’t keep all the gold to yourself, my friend – share it with the community.
If you like this video, hit ‘Like’. And share it with your friends, share the video too. And if you want more good stuff from me, check out my website – hadarshemesh.com. I have a lot of free stuff for you, and stuff that you can download and practice.
And if you want to connect on a personal level, you can find me at @hadar.accentsway on Instagram. Send me a DM, and I will answer you. Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the day. And I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.