Wednesday, 30 October 2013

12 Phrasal Verbs you actually need

Phrasal verbs - two words to strike terror into the heart of every learner of English. Just when you think you might be starting to really understand English and become quite fluent...they tell you that actually there are several thousand phrasal verbs that you have to learn. NO! It can't be true!
Some phrasal verbs are pretty pointless - I mean what's the difference between "to kneel" and "to kneel down"?

Elvis kneeling
Elvis kneeling down

Nothing. And you can't exactly "kneel up" can you? So the word "down" seems to be doing no job except making English just that little bit more difficult.

Then there all the confusing phrasal verbs that make no sense at all  - "carry on" - meaning "continue". It's hard to see the connection with carrying.

In the world of language teaching there seems to be an accepted list of the most useful phrasal verbs and these include "put off" - postpone, "call off" - cancel, "put up with" - tolerate, "make up for" - compensate. If you are a student you have probably seen these before and if you are a teacher doubtless you have come across...sorry... I mean found...these in countless books. Somebody once decided that these were the most useful/common and every textbook writer since has followed with the same list. They are also an important part of  FCE, CAE and other exams, but are they really that common or useful?

It seems to me that there are at least 12 phrasal verbs which we use every day and which are therefore far more common and useful than those above. They are so simple that I think books and teachers often forget to teach them and when they are included in course books (I can think of English File for example) they are taught at Upper Intermediate level.
I would have thought that actually these 12 should be among the first vocabulary taught whereas, at the moment, I find that even Advanced level students inevitably have difficulty describing these very basic actions.

So here is a film I put together to introduce these 12 verbs. There are numerous examples of each action, taken from various films.  You can find the answers under the movie on the Youtube page.

There is also a free 6-page worksheet for students and teachers to download here:

I hope you find it useful - if you do, you can click "Like" on my Facebook page. Thanks!

Thursday, 28 February 2013


Poor Jennifer Lawrence fell over on her way to collect her Oscar...

Falling over, falling down, falling out....choosing the correct proposition can be tricky so here are some pictures and also some idioms with "fall" to look at and check your understanding.

I've made a worksheet (with answers) which you can download for free below.


Here are some common idioms with "fall"

Here are some other phrases with “fall” Look at the example sentences below and, from the context, try to match the phrase with the correct meaning.
1.    fall asleep

a)     disintegrate
2.    fall apart

b)    stop rising and decrease (for graphs etc.)
3.    fall out

c)     start to sleep!
4.    fall behind

d)    have an argument with a friend (and you stop being friends)
5.    fall back

e)     stop being popular
6.    fall from grace/fall out of favour

f)      retreat
7.    fall off

g)     to fail to maintain the same speed or level
8.    fall through

h)    not happen (for plans)

  • The level of the class was too difficult for me and I quickly fell behind. The others found it easy but I couldn’t keep up with them.
  • The house was only made out of thin wood and paper so when the strong winds started it quickly fell apart.
  • There was a large rise in sales for Samsung in the first two months of the year but then sales fell off in March and April.
  • For many years Edward had been the King’s favourite but after the scandal he quickly fell out of favour.
  • We had made very detailed plans to visit Turkey for a holiday but they all fell through when the earthquake forced us to cancel.
  • After fierce fighting outside the capital city the government army has fallen back and the rebels are advancing.
  • I sometimes fall out with my sister, usually about money, but it never lasts long and one of us always apologises and we make friends again.
  • The film was so boring that I had to stop myself from falling asleep.


Now listen to "Falling" by Florence & The Machine

 and complete the gaps in the first verse.
I've fallen ______ favour and I've fallen ____________
Fallen out of_________and I've fallen on _________
Fallen out of ______, out of ________ too
I fell in your opinion when I _________ love with you

You can find the answers to all of the above, and some other practice exercises here:

If you enjoyed this blog please like my Facebook page here:

Monday, 25 February 2013

"A"? "An"? "The"? nothing? ("The English is the crazy")

Articles ("a/an", "the") are great fun for all the family and ensure that I and other English teachers will never be unemployed. Not, at least, as long as there are 935 million speakers of Mandarin, 144 million Russian speakers, and 40 million speaking Polish - for all of whom (and numerous speakers of other languages) articles are an unfamiliar and confusing concept.

And they have every right to be confused. Why do we say THE Himalayas but not THE Mount Everest? Why do we use the definite article for rivers and canals but not for lakes
I don't know. But here is a little chart which you can put on your fridge and help you if you're not sure.

There is also a worksheet with some exercises (and answers) at the link below.

if you find this helpful please go here
and click "like"! Thank you!

THE Westminster Bridge (no article)
THE Golden Gate Bridge (with article!)

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Flying in the face of authority

Modal verbs of Obligation

There are so many more rules to remember when you fly nowadays – you mustn’t take liquids, you have to take off your belt and your shoes when you pass through customs, you can’t take photos, you must switch off your mobile phone and “other electric devices” (whatever they are!) I’m surprised we don’t have to pass through customs naked to ensure we’re not wearing any explosive underpants.
British customs officials are specially
trained to identify likely terrorists.

In the past it was so much easier: all you needed to remember was that you had to fasten your seatbelt for take off and landing, and you couldn’t smoke (oh, and you weren’t allowed to carry a weapon onboard either!). You didn’t have to worry about how many mililitres your bottle of water contained and you didn’t have to argue with some teenager in a uniform whether that jar of jam you had bought as a gift for grandma was actually a solid or a liquid.

I wonder what the future holds? Perhaps we will have to arrive at the airport the day before our flight to pass all these incredibly pointless tests Maybe we won’t be allowed to sweat as that might be a “dangerous liquid” I hope we can soon return to the days of common sense and going on holiday can become an enjoyable experience again, when we won’t have to worry about silly laws that only exist to maintain the level of public fear regarding “the war on terror” (so that our governments can continue to start illegal wars abroad).

Exercise 1. This rant above contains examples of modal verbs of obligation. Look at the words in bold and use them to complete this table.

(paragraph 1)
(paragraph 2)
(paragraph 3)
we use these words for rules –
(it is compulsory)

will +
we use these words for rules –
(it is prohibited/it is not permitted)

won’t +
we use this to say something isn’t necessary


Exercise 2.

Now check your understanding by saying if these statements are TRUE or FALSE:
1.      All these modal verbs are followed by the bare infinitive (e.g. “to go”)

2.      “Must” and “have to” have very similar meanings.

3.      We can use both “must” or “have to” in the past, present and future.

4.      “Don’t have to” is the negative of “have to”.

"Welcome to the UK..."

Exercise 3.

Can you complete these sentences using the modal verbs above?

1.      You ______________________ stand up when a plane is taking off.
2.      You ______________________ take a passport when travelling from England into Scotland.
3.      If you are British you ______________________ get a visa to travel to the United States but you ______________________  get a visa when travelling to most European countries.
4.      You ______________________ tell customs if your are bringing more than 200 cigarettes into the UK.
5.      There is a long list of things (food, drink, seeds, plants etc) which you ______________________ take into Australia.
6.      Fifty years ago you ______________________ wear a helmet when riding a motorbike (and there were many more deaths as a result).
7.      I hope that in the future gun laws become much stricter and people won’t ______________________ to keep guns in their homes.
8.      If you earn less than £6,500 next year you ____________________ pay any tax.

"Martin's class were soon highly disciplined..."

9.      Between 1939 and 1960 British men ______________________ do National Service. My father, for example, was in the Royal Air Force.
10.  Many people think that it would be good if young people ______________________ do National Service now.

 Your country

Here are some laws in the UK - how do they compare with your country?

In the UK you must drive on the left.
You don’t have to vote.
You must be 18 to buy cigarettes.
You don’t have to wear a helmet when riding a bike.
You can’t smoke in any public place. This includes football matches.
People don’t have to have ID cards.
You have to pay for a TV licence to own a TV.
Usually, pubs must close at 11pm.
You are not allowed to carry anything which may be considered a weapon.
You mustn’t drive at more than 70mph on the motorway
Nude sunbathing is allowed on some UK beaches.
People are not allowed to beg in the street and buskers on the underground must have a licence
Everyone in a car – front and back seats – must wear a seatbelt
You don’t have to have private health insurance.
Gun ownership is strictly controlled (you must have a licence) and automatic weapons are not allowed.
You don’t have to do military service in the UK.
You must be 16 to drive a moped.
You don’t have to register where you live.
Until a few years ago you had to have a licence to own a dog.
Generally, anyone under 16 isn't allowed to enter pubs or bars

Here is some more useful vocabulary when talking about laws and rules:

it’s illegal

it’s against the law

it’s banned

the law isn’t enforced

the police turn a blind eye

the police are quite relaxed about it

you might get a fine

you might be banned

you might get points on your licence

You can download a free worksheet with a printable version of this blog including answers at
  I hope you find this useful - please visit my facebook page and click "Like" if you do!!/londonenglishclasses1

More to come soon....

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Phrases with "get"

It's getting on for three months since I promised one of my students, Raul Rodriguez, that I'd do something on phrases with "get" and I've finally got round to doing it. There are so many different ways we use "get" (especially in British English, it's less common in America) but we can try to group them into 4 main categories.

It's easy to get confused when trying to get your head round all of these phrases, but hopefully thing's will get easier after you've read this week's worksheet.

You can watch this film

with 70 phrases of "get" and then check them all and how they fit into these 4 catagories with a free 7-page worksheet. You can get the worksheet here I hope you find it fun (and helpful!) if you want to do me a favour in return you can click "like" on my facebook page -

Ok, now get going!

"Marcus got a shock when he saw how many phrases
with get Martin had given him to learn"