What Are Phrasal Verbs & How Should I Use Them?

What are phrasal verbs?

Learning about what phrasal verbs actually are can seem very daunting in the beginning. In fact, it can seem as daunting as getting familiar with idioms or trying to learn how to use important idioms

However, you do not need to be frightened, as using phrasal verbs is a tad easier. A tad, though, not a lot. You might still end up needing to attend the best English course in California. But, first, read our guide and see where that puts you. 

What are phrasal verbs?

The simple definition of a phrasal verb is this:

  • Phrasal verbs are combinations of two, sometimes three, words that belong to different grammatical categories. These combinations usually consist of a verb and a preposition or an adverb.

Or, at least, that’s how the experts from the University of California Department of Linguistics would put it. It seems a bit too complicated to understand clearly, doesn’t it? It’s as if this definition is a bit too much, right?

Let’s try putting it like this:

  • Any time you’ve got a verb that goes together with a preposition (on, in, off, …), or an adverb (up, down, out, …), you can think of it as of a phrasal verb. And that’s about it.

Oh, wait, there’s one more thing, sorry. The trick is that every phrasal verb has a distinct meaning, similar to idioms - it’s a combination that has a particular meaning, one that you have to learn. Why not give it a go with a couple of simple examples?

What are some examples of phrasal verbs?

Language is best learned through simple, yet effective examples, which is what we’re going to do now. Here are just a couple of examples of simple phrasal verbs in English and how their literal meanings differ from their figurative ones:

  • Look up - Well, this means I should simply direct my gaze upward, right? Yes, but as a phrasal verb, “look up” means to try and find something. For example, you can look up a word in a dictionary.
  • Dig in - This one has nothing to do with taking a spade and making a gaping hole in the ground. When you dig in, you start eating a tasty meal rather quickly.
  • Put off - “How exactly would I put something off?” Well, to put something off means that you’re going to postpone it for a later hour. You’ve probably heard of a wedding being put off, right?

You’ve probably got a clearer picture of what phrasal verbs actually are now. Let’s move on.

Do people frequently use phrasal verbs?

Yes, people use phrasal verbs very frequently. They use phrasal verbs in everyday conversation, written correspondence, when chatting on Viber or Whatsapp, etc. As a matter of fact, phrasal verbs are more frequently used than idioms.

It has to do with their structure - they’re grammatically simple and they are also simple to use. Also, it's a lot easier to remember two words that are used together, than five or more. That’s why people use phrasal verbs very frequently.

And, an interesting thing is that people use phrasal verbs without even knowing it. Try out, turn down, put on, etc… All these are common, you can hear them every day, and there is no problem in using them. That is why you can hear a phrasal verb here and a phrasal verb there everywhere. 

How are phrasal verbs used?

It’s simple - hear or read them, learn them, and use them. Honestly, it’s that easy! Phrasal verbs are extremely similar to regular verbs, but with an extra bit added to them in form a preposition or an adverb.

Anytime you notice an opportunity to spice it up with a phrasal verb, you can. You see, spice up - it has nothing to do with adding a bit of pepper, but with making your English more interesting. See what we did there?

Lastly, the rule of thumb is that phrasal verbs are most often used without separating the verb from the adverb or the preposition. For example, you can fall down a flight of stairs, not fall a flight of stairs down.

“What is the best English language course to attend in California to learn phrasal verbs?”

If you know a tad about phrasal verbs, but would like to polish them up further at a language course held by professional teachers, there’s no better place for it than College of English Language.

We are a language school that takes great pride in watching our students become prolific users of the English language. We want you to be able to find your way around every place, San Diego Zoo Safari Park included. If you’re eager to learn, CEL is the best choice!