Лященко К.В. Phrasal verbs in English: ways of formation and usage

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Лященко Катерина В'ячеславівна – студентка Педагогічного інституту Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка, напрям підготовки «Початкова освіта», кафедра іноземних мов і методик їх навчання Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка

У статті розглянено поняття фразового дієслова, охарактеризовані його головні типи, розкривається абстрактне і конкретне значення фразового дієслова та представлено огляд наукових джерел. Автор досліджує способи формування та використання фразових дієслів у сучасній англійській мові.

Ключові слова: дієслово, фразове дієслово, прийменник, частка, абстрактне значення фразового дієслова, конкретне значення фразового дієслова.

В статье рассмотрено понятие фразового глагола, охарактеризованы его основне типы, раскрывается абстрактное и конкретное значение фразового глагола и представлен обзор научной литературы. Автор исследует способы формирования и использования фразових глаголов в современном английском языке.

Ключевые слова: глагол, фразовый глагол, предлог, частица, абстрактное значение фразового глагола, конкретное значение фразового глагола.

This article highlights the notion of phrasal verb, describes main types, reveals abstract and concrete meaning of phrasal verb and presents the review of scientific sources. The author considers the ways of formation and usage of phrasal verbs in modern English.

Key words: verb, phrasal verb, preposition, particle, abstract meaning of phrasal verb, concrete meaning of phrasal verb, single-verb synonym, multi-word verb.


Problem setting

It is well known that phrasal verbs are a challenging area of English-language learning and teaching. The English language is full of such verbs and in many cases their meaning cannot be guessed from the component parts.

The fact that many phrasal verbs have more than one meaning makes life more complicated for the learners. Unfortunately, they think that is much better to use single-verb synonyms instead of cramming all verbs with appropriate adverb or preposition.

The evidence suggests that learners who don’t have phrasal verbs in their mother tongue (such as Ukrainian-speaking, French-speaking or Spanish-speaking students) tend to avoid using phrasal verbs in English. This does not mean that they do not use phrasal verbs at all, but rather that they use fewer phrasal verbs and more single-word verbs than native-speakers of English performing similar tasks.

There are more than 5,000 phrasal verbs and related noun and adjective forms in use in English. Learners should focus just on those phrasal verbs which they need to know for everyday spoken and written communication in English, and it is necessary to provide the information and practice which will help them understand and use phrasal verbs correctly.

Therefore, ways of formation and usage of phrasal verbs were selected as a theme of our article.

Last scientific researches and publications analysis

Having analyzed contemporary scientific, educational and methodological literature we may argue that phrasal verbs have become a subject of investigation of many researchers. During the analysis of recent publications, it was found out that the issue of phrasal verbs has been studied by a great deal of linguists and methodologists.

Ways of formation and usage of phrasal verbs have been studied by Jake Alsop, Sylvie De Cock, David Crystal, Matt Errey, Virginia Evans, John Flower, Martha Kolln, Tom McArthur, Michael McCarthy, James Milton, Felicity O'Dell, Martin Shovel, Graham Workman, and Rawdon Wyatt.

Formulation of the article’s purpose

Aim of our article is to study the peculiarities of phrasal verbs. In this scientific research we try to 1) provide an explanation of the phrasal verbs; 2) describe main types of phrasal verbs; 3) characterize the ways of formation and usage of phrasal verbs.

The statement of basic material of investigation

A phrasal verb is a verb formed from two (sometimes three) parts: a verb and an adverb or preposition. Most are formed from a small number of common verbs (such as get, go, come, put and set) and a small number of adverbs and prepositions (such as away, out, off, up and in). These adverbs and prepositions are often called particles when they are used in a phrasal verb 6.

Tom McArthur notes that these verbs are also referred to by many other names such verb phrase, discontinuous verb, compound verb, verb-adverb combination, verb-particle construction (VPC), two-part word/verb and three-part word/verb. 4

David Crystal calls this linguistic phenomenon a «multi-word verb» that is best described as a lexeme, a unit of meaning that may be greater than a single word. 2

Phrasal verbs sometimes have meanings that learners can easily guess (for example, sit down or go away). However, in most cases their meanings are quite different from the meanings of the verb they are formed from. For example, hold up can mean 'to cause a delay' or 'to try to rob someone'. The original meaning of hold (for example, to hold something in your hands) no longer applies.

There are five main types of phrasal verb. These are:

1. Intransitive phrasal verbs or inseparable (= phrasal verbs which do not need an object). For example: You're driving too fast. You ought to slow down.

2. Transitive phrasal verbs or separable (= phrasal verbs which must have an object) where the object can come in one of two positions: (1) between the verb and the particle(s). For example: I think I'll put my jacket on. or (2) аfter the particle. For example: I think I'll put on my jacket.

However, if the object is a pronoun (he, she, it, etc), it must usually come between the verb and the particle. For example: I think I'll put it on. (NOT I think I'll put on it.)

3. Transitive phrasal verbs where the object must come between the verb and the particle. For example: Our latest designs set our company apart from our rivals.

4. Transitive phrasal verbs where the object must come after the particle. For example: John takes after his mother. Why do you put up with the way he treats you?

5. Transitive phrasal verbs with two objects, one after the verb and one after the particle. For example: They put their success down to good planning.

Some transitive phrasal verbs can be used in the passive, but the object cannot come between the verb and the particle. For example:

Active: The soldiers blew up the bridge / The soldiers blew the bridge up.

Passive: The bridge was blown up by the soldiers.

Active: Switch the lights off before you leave / Switch off the lights before you leave.

Passive: The lights must be switched off before you leave.

Active: It's time they did away with these silly rules.

Passive: It's time these silly rules were done away with. (where the subject is either not known or not needed). 7

It is necessary to emphasize the importance of learning the prepositions when some phrasal verbs are used transitively and for the inclusion of reviews of points of grammar not specific to phrasal verbs. Prepositions are like the glue that holds English together, but many students hesitate to use newly learned verbs because they don’t know that a preposition is also compulsory, or if they do, which one. This aspect of English is not given the attention it deserves 1.

The hope of the latter feature, the discussion of points of grammar not specific to phrasal verbs, is that combining practice with phrasal verbs and practice with a variety of grammatical structures will increase not only the student's confidence in the knowledge of phrasal verbs but also his or her willingness and ability to use them in a wider range of situations.

Most phrasal verbs are nor informal, slang, or improper for educated speech or formal writing. Exactly the opposite is true – most phrasal verbs are acceptable at all levels of spoken or written English 1.

The basic meaning of the verbs (break, bring, call, come, cut, get, give, go, keep, knock, look, make, pass, pick, pull, put, run, set, take, turn) refer to concrete actions (e.g. break means separate into pieces), but when they are part of phrasal verbs, they often have abstract meaning, too. Sometimes the concrete meaning can help you guess the abstract meaning, for example, you can look back to wave goodbye to someone as you leave in a car (concrete meaning – look behind you), or you can look back on your past life (abstract meaning – remember or recall).

26 Lyaschenko 1.jpg

A phrasal verb can often be replaced by single verb with more or less the same meaning. The single-verb synonyms are often, but not always, more formal 5.

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For learning and using phrasal verbs we need to have access to a good dictionary. Cambridge International Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs gives exactly the kind of information that learners need to have about phrasal verbs.

McArthur in his treatment of the phrasal verb states that phrasal verbs cover both the literal and figurative/idiomatic uses 4.

Grammarians classify phrasal verbs based on their use in sentence patterns (syntactical properties) and as new word formations (morphological properties), as well as by the overall meaning of these verb combinations (semantic properties). The examples below illustrate the same phrasal verb having literal, figurative and idiomatic meanings.

Phrasal verb: look forward (inseparable). Literal meaning: to look at something in the front (e.g. I look forward to seeing you soon). Figurative meaning: to eagerly anticipate (e.g. Susan looks forward to her vacation in July).

Phrasal verb: get into'' (inseparable). Literal meaning: to open a box, drawer or other container (e.g. I used a key to get into the house). Figurative meaning: to discuss something (Let's get into the reasons why we're going to win this case). Idiomatic meaning: to enjoy (e.g. He really got into the concert!).

Phrasal verb: put off (separable). Figurative meaning: to postpone something (e.g. Let's put the meeting off until next week). Idiomatic meaning: to make someone not like (e.g. Her attitude put me off).

Phrasal verb: take off (separable; figurative: inseparable). Literal meaning: to disrobe - take clothing off your body (e.g. I took my coat off and entered the room). Figurative meaning: to be successful (e.g. The new products took off. We sold more than 300,000 in just one month!). Idiomatic meaning: to not go to work, take leisure time (e.g. I need to take some time off work).

The phrasal verb is an interesting linguistic phenomenon - syntactically, morphologically and semantically. Historically, although the phrasal verb has been present in English for many centuries, the term was first used in print in 1925. Phrasal verbs were found in Middle English, common in Shakespeare, and often used to define verbs of Latin origin. McArthur states that the famous lexicographer of the eighteenth century, Samuel Johnson, was one of the first to consider these formations carefully. 4

Dwight Bolinger answers the question of why there are so many of these formations in English. He states, "They are words. The everyday inventor is not required to reach for elements such as roots and affixes that have no reality for him. It takes only a rough familiarity with other uses of head and off to make them available for head off, virtually self-suggesting when the occasion for them comes up, which is not true of learned formations like ''intercept. 1 In addition, he notes that phrasal verbs are more expressive than the synonyms they replace. He contrasts insult with to jump on; exult with to jump up and down with joy; and assault with to jump at.

Because of using a great among of phrasal verbs by native speakers, learners face with some difficulties in connected speech. Another aspect of phrasal verbs that is often overlooked is the number of new nouns derived from them. According to Bolinger, the phrasal verb is "next to the noun+noun combinations, probably the most prolific source of new nouns in English". Here are some examples: runaway from run away, makeup from make up 1. So, phrasal verbs are significant source of formation the new words (to bring up – upbringing; to back down – backdown; to break up – breakup).


Phrasal verbs are a challenging area of English-language learning and teaching. Therefore, the ways of their formation and usage have been studied by a great deal of linguists and methodologists. Despite the fact that there is a huge number of phrasal verbs it is worth to mention that learners have to develop their spoken and written communication in English.

During our scientific research we have provided an explanation of the phrasal verbs, described main types of phrasal verbs and characterized the ways of formation and usage of phrasal verbs.

Exploring this issue we were assured that phrasal verbs are integral part of English learning, therefore, they have to occupy an important place while learning and communicating.

Moreover, in order to make learners’ life easier the teacher of English language has to introduce phrasal verbs firstly with simple common used (go out, sit down, turn off) and then proceed to more harder (come by, carry on, work up). And after that, learners will know how to form and where it is necessary to use phrasal verbs correctly.

Список використаних джерел

  1. Bolinger D. The Phrasal Verb in English. /D. Bolinger – Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971. – 187 p.
  2. Crystal D. Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language / D. Crystal Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. – 560 p.
  3. Hart C. The ultimate phrasal verb book / Carl W. Hart. – New York, United States of America: Barron’s Educational Series, 2009. – 410 p.
  4. McArthur T. The Oxford Companion to the English Language / Thomas Burns McArthur, Feri McArthur. – Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. – 1184 с.
  5. McCarthy M. English phrasal verbs in use / M. McCarthy, F. O'Dell. – Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. – 206 p.
  6. Rundell M. Macmillan English Dictionary / M. Rundell. – United Kingdom: Macmillan, 2002. – 1748 p.
  7. Wyatt R. Check Your English Vocabulary for Phrasal Verbs and Idioms / R. Wyatt – London: A&C Black Publisher, 2006. – 80 p.

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