Teaching Phrasal Verbs: Dos and Don’ts

Phrasal verbs are commonly used in English, making lessons on this topic not only helpful but essential. Our students will encounter phrasal verbs in academic, professional, and everyday settings. It’s our job to help them understand and appropriately use them. Here are some dos and don’ts when it comes to teaching the seemingly endless list of phrasal verbs:

  • Limit the number of phrasal verbs in a given lesson. I see their study more as a vocabulary lesson than a grammar lesson, so I’d recommend somewhere between 6-10 new items.
  • Don’t limit your presentation to one verb with six different particles, for example: get along, get around, get over, get by, get up, and get off. This is too confusing for the students. Present different main verbs, and as part of a review you may later contrast similar phrasal verbs. For instance, one lesson might include get along and get by. Then a second lesson presents get around and get over. A third lesson could then force an encounter with all four phrasal verbs.
  • Always present phrasal verbs in context. Students need to understand not only the meaning but also the appropriacy of a given phrasal verb. Is it slang? Is it used in professional settings? Imagine a student asking a professor how to bone up on a certain topic before a big exam! 
  • Don’t limit exercises to ones that only check students’ comprehension. Allow for meaningful communication. Students need practice expressing their own ideas with phrasal verbs.
  • Note the grammar: Which phrasal verbs are transitive? Which ones are separable?
  • Correct pronunciation.  Example: Please don’t fall BEHIND.  (Stress the particle because there’s no object.)

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Amy says:

    Ah it’s very hard. And I’m trying now.

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