Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Encouragement for ELLs - phrasal verbs are hard!

Phrasal verbs are hard!

Phrasal verbs are expressions where a verb and another element, often a preposition or an adverb, are combined to create a two (or more) word unit (an idiom) that has a different meaning than the verb had by itself.  

This is even harder when the original verb has, by itself, many different meanings.

Take get, as an example.  By itself, get can mean to obtain or to buy.  ("I get candy.")  It can mean to reach a place.  ("She got home safely.")  With an adjective, it can mean become.  ("Lucia is getting old.")

But add some adverbs and prepositions and it gets wild!  (I mean it becomes wild.)

to get along - to relate in a friendly way

to get by - to manage to survive, to afford life
to get down - to party, to boogie
to get into - to become interested in 
. . . 
and the list goes on and on.

meanings of "get"
Some of the meanings of get when used as a phrase.

There are many verbs in English that form verb phases, also called idioms, and they're often short verbs derived from Anglo-Saxon roots.  Take and look are just as complex as get.  

I was deeply impressed by a page provided by EF on the verb get. It does not specify every meaning that get can get to, but it does a remarkably clear job.

Verbs in English that come from Latin or Romance roots are not nearly as often used phrasally.  Get can mean obtain, but "obtain" is never combined with an adverb or a preposition to form an idiom with a totally new meaning.  Thank goodness for those verbs in English that come from Latin!  They don't get phrasal!

It's the Anglo-Saxon verbs, those short, simple words, that combine and morph into new meaning idioms.  Get.  LookCome.  

Here is one thing that might keep you from becoming dispirited: Knowing how to use phrasal verbs is one of the most advanced skills that an English Language Learner can acquire.  Learn get along.  A few months later, learn get over.  The different meanings are not infinite.  Eventually, you'll learn them all.

And at that point, you'll be proficient, or even fluent, in English.  You'll no longer be an English Language Learner.  You'll be an English speaker.


#student spirit
#English teaching
#English usage

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