Still Thinking It Over: More ways to practice phrasal verbs

Hopefully, some of you were able to try out the Think It Over activity from last week.  When I worked with an advanced private student, we quickly got through Tasks 1 and 2, and then focused on finding one-word equivalents for phrasal verbs, which we did with an article he had read in preparation for our lesson. This made me think it would be useful to list some possible ways teachers can turn an authentic text into a phrasal verb activity.

  • Last week, a reader and fellow blogger, Bekah Palmer, suggested that we delete all prepositions from a text and ask students to decide if the verb was the first word of a phrasal verb, and if so, what the particle(s) would be.
  • Like  Bekah, I’ve turned existing sentences into controlled exercises. One way is to pull sentences with phrasal verbs from a text after reading it and remove all the particles. Students must fill in the blanks based on what they’re able to recall and their knowledge of particle meanings: “Britain officially slipped ________ recession.”  A second way is to pull sentences with phrasal verbs from a text before reading it and give a choice of particles. For example, “Britain officially slipped (back over/ across/ back into) recession.” (Taken from NPR article One After Another, European Leaders Get the Boot.)
  • You can underline a set of phrasal verbs within a text and have students match them to their one-word equivalents on the board. Advanced students should actually be able to provide many of these one-word equivalents. In my last  lesson with  my advanced private student, I decided to give an inline choice of particles and then ask for a one-word equivalent. For instance, “Authorities could require people [depositors] to take (in/ out/ over) a new form of currency…” (from NPR.org)  > He correctly chose “take out” and then reworded the phrasal verb as “withdraw.”
  • I’ve also given communicative practice with phrasal verbs seen in a text by incorporating them into discussion questions. For example, what are some common reasons to take out large amounts of cash from the bank? How often do you withdraw money?


Do you have any preferred way of practicing phrasal verbs with upper level students?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Soubhik Burai from Kolkata, India says:

    Respected Ma’am,
    It’s very nice. I am following this.
    Thanks.

  2. Bruce Harper says:

    Useful ideas, thanks. But ‘slip into’ is not a phrasal verb.

    1. Hello. Thanks for checking out the post. It’s very true that after all these years I still find phrasal verbs a tricky topic to tackle! When we define a particle as an adverb or preposition that extends or changes the meaning of the verb, it becomes challenging to determine just how idiomatic a combination can be. “Back” is recognized as a particle expressing “return,” as in go back or turn back. I see “back” having a similar meaning in the combination slip back into.

      It’s funny how often we teachers can agree to disagree. I see the gray areas exposed in dictionaries and textbooks as well. For example, the combination slip into regarding clothing is not recognized as a phrasal verb in some dictionaries, but it’s categorized as such in others (Cambridge and Macmillan). In the end, I’m going to be happy if my students use all these combinations correctly and appropriately regardless of how the words have been labeled in their minds.🙂

      Thank you for making me think more about phrasal verbs this morning. Regards!

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