Phrasal Verbs in Context

If there’s one piece of advice I have for students about phrasal verbs, it’s not to learn too many at once. If I work with a set of more than ten phrasal verbs, then I make sure that some of them are already familiar to the students.

I think our job as teachers is to provide sufficient practice for phrasal verbs.  I’ve created quite a few activities in the past on this topic, like my Phrasal Verb Dominoes. I believe that there are different approaches that meet with success. Gaining some understanding of particles helps develop awareness of patterns, like “up” meaning an increase, as in turn up the volume. I take this approach in my “Think It Over” situation cards. Exploring context also helps, and I allow students to test out a limited number of phrasal verbs in Putting Together a Narrative.

Grouping phrasal verbs by theme is a popular and wise approach. There are online lists that sort phrasal verbs into expressions related to relationships (get along with, break up with, etc.) and travel (set off for, take off, etc.), for example. These lists help students associate phrasal verbs with situations.

Another approach is to read or hear phrasal verbs in a story. This can help make the context more memorable. If you’d like to offer reading and speaking practice with ten phrasal verbs, check out my Phrasal Verbs in Context_handout. The activity starts with a short text about a crazy meeting in the workplace and progresses to short discussion tasks that could be turned into a game. Enjoy!

Photo credit: Action, Beverage, Brainstorming by rawpixel. Retrieved from the Public Domain at

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