Ah, phrasal verbs.
Let me explain.
Phrasal verbs are pretty cool and often misunderstood. They are like the keytar of grammar. Kind of weird at first, but great when you get it, and mastering them is kind of tricky, as there are no rules.
A phrasal verb, is when a verb hooks up (consensually, of course) with a preposition and this partnership creates a new verb.
For example, take the verb ‘to look’. We all know what it means, but ‘to look back on’ is something quite different from ‘to look forward to’ which of course has nothing to do with ‘to look up’ or ‘to look up to’ or even ‘to look around’ or ‘to look out’. See what I mean?
The best way to remember these is to think of each verb and preposition combination as a new verb. So, when you see ‘to look back on’ think reminisce. When you see ‘look forward to’ (and you KNOW you have to use the verb + ing after that, right? Ok. Just checking.) you can think ‘excited about’.
Here is a list of some nifty phrasal verbs. All of the cool kids are using them these days, and it’s a great way to add more color to your language.
Ok, ready for the next level? We have separable and non-separable phrasal verbs. Isn’t that fun and sexy? (It is.)
A separable phrasal verb is when the preposition can be (shock and awe) separated from the verb. For example, ‘I need to bring that library book back next week’, or ‘The terrorists tried to blow the car up, but didn’t succeed’.
Examples of non-separable phrasal verbs are:
‘She refused to put up with his behavior.’
‘He came across an old photo while he was cleaning out his desk trying to impress Marie Kondo.’
And how do you know if the phrasal verb is separable or not separable? You ask your ears. Often, if you say both ways out loud, your ears will tell you what sounds right. Unless, of course, you’ve been listening to morons. Then don’t trust your ears. There is actually no set of rules for this, but verb lists and exercises or quizzes will help you learn your way around (see what I did there?). They are also explained, along with so many other essential Knowledge Nuggets in my book ‘100 Ways to Save Your Ass in English’.
Oh, and if you make a mistake with phrasal verbs, you might give your English coach a heart attack. I was asking my client what his plans were for the weekend and he said ‘Oh, I’m going to look for my kids. I’ve been looking for them for a while now’. I turned pale and grabbed his hand and asked how I could help, and immediately ended the lesson because how could he concentrate when his kids were missing?!?! As it turned out, he meant ‘look after’ his kids, as his partner was away on vacation. ‘To look after’ means ‘to take care of’. He laughed so hard when he realised his mistake (and he gave me a big hug which helped a lot)!
I hope now you are more comfortable with your new best friends the phrasal verbs.
Can you use one in a sentence today? (Yes, you can.)
Write me back and show me!
Looking forward (1) to smiling upon (2) your reactions! Carry on (3) and get back to (4) me as soon as you can!