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!


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  10. I’ve been using this lesson with all my classes and I LOVE the music too. It’s a fun lesson that is NEVER boring!!