The Proper Use of Phrasal Verbs

Published: 03rd January 2012
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Dictionaries are good things for language learning. We need them. And dictionaries can help you learn English. What I want to say is that dictionaries are only good support. To really learn these verbs, you need materials that go beyond dictionaries. Well, let's say you need a good dictionary, and you need more.
So, go get a dictionary, but first check inside. Does it have a clear meaning for each verb? If you read it slowly and think about it, can you understand the meaning? Meanings that are written in complex language will not help you learn faster, they will make you learn slower.
Does the dictionary have a sample sentence using the verb? Of course, this is a good feature. If you found a dictionary with this feature, it may be a good dictionary. Clear meanings, and sample sentences are very important, but this is still not enough.
One step better is to have several sample sentences. Now dictionaries for learners sometimes have two sample sentences showing the usage of the phrasal verb. Some even have more. These dictionaries are great for supporting and assisting your studies. You will find them helpful.
But great dictionaries alone are not enough.
What is really essential to really learning phrasal verbs well is a story. You need a story that uses the phrasal verb in context. A clearly written and recorded story for listening practice. With a memorable story and a phrasal verb used correctly in context, you can start to do some really good phrasal verb listening practice.
Hearing the phrasal verb used correctly in context will make it easier for you to learn and use the verb. First, you can copy the use. Simply repeat the story. We all know that repetition is great for learning, and so is copying. Copying the correct usage will help you make a correct pattern in your memory.
You can then move to the next step, which is to make your own sentence using the phrasal verb in a similar way, but slightly different. This allows you to copy the pattern and start to modify it so you can remember it even better.
A short story is great. It is quick and easy to learn. If it is memorable, that helps a lot. And the verb is used in context. The next thing that can make it one step better is a picture. Having a picture helps your visual mind to help you remember. If you cannot remember by sound only, a combination of sound and images can help you remember much better.
Do not use the same phrasal verb several times in the same story. The risk is having a story that is too long. A story that is too long no longer helps us to remember things. There is too much to remember. Plus, it takes too long to listen to. Study becomes less motivating. A short quick challenge is often much more fun than a dreadful, long, boring, difficult challenge. So choose stories that are short.
Dictionaries are fine reference materials for studying English but they cannot replace good study materials. Look for dictionaries that use the words in more than one sample sentence. Then find your main study materials. These should be short stories that are recorded, using the phrasal verbs in context. The stories should be memorable, and they should be accompanied by a picture to help you remember and use your imagination when studying.
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