In this article, we are going to discuss how you can improve your English vocabulary by learning phrasal verbs. Words like in, on, at, down, from, to and the verb and the preposition will come together to make new meaning in English. Although we mentioned that there are then thousand phrasal verbs in English, you don’t have to memorize every single phrasal verb. In fact, memorizing all of these phrasal verbs would be a waste of time. We are going to break down phrasal verbs into four different types, four different groups that will help you to understand phrasal verbs more clearly.
The first group of phrasal verbs is where the verb keeps the actual meaning of the verb, and the proposition is merely used to emphasize the direction that the action is happening in. For example, if I have this hat, I ‘put on’ the hat. Here put on is the phrasal verb. It connected to the preposition because of the actual direction. It is ‘on’ my head. The opposite of ‘put on’ is ‘take off’. So now I am removing the hat from my head. The direction of off usually means to remove something. ‘Stand up’- literally, you are moving upwards or ‘lay down’ your body’s going from an up position to a downwards position. ‘Take out’. ‘Come in’ is the direction, ‘call around’. If you are trying to find a deal on a certain thing we might use to call around because you are going to call many places. So the first category for phrasal verbs is the verb keeps the actual meaning of the verb, and the preposition is just used to talk about the direction that the action is happening.
The second category is where the verb keeps the same general meaning, and the preposition is used to talk about an action that is completely finished. It is one hundred percent done. For this category, you are only going to look for four prepositions. Up, off, down, out. From these four prepositions, the preposition up is used the most often to describe the action that has been completely done. For example ‘eat up’ means please eat everything, please finish eating. ‘Drink up’ “cheers! Drink up”. I want you to finish drinking completely. Drink as much as you can. ‘Fill up’ if I want to have a bath, completely fill it with water. If I am using some kind of item in my house, and I use all of that item completely, I have used up the item you can also use ‘finished up’ the item because the item is completely finished. We use ‘finish up’ as well to talk about certain tasks that we need to do “if I have a lot of homework. I need to finish up my homework”.
The other three prepositions that were mentioned are used similarly. For example “if I want you to find the answer to something, but I want you to find all the information, as much as you possibly can, I want you to ‘find out’ information on this thing. ‘Pay off’ If you have some debt, you need to ‘pay off’ your debt meaning to completely pay the debt, finish paying the debt one hundred percent. ‘Clear off’ if my table is really messy, I might need to ‘clear off’ the table, remove everything from the table so that we have space to eat dinner, or ‘clear off’ the table. ‘Wipe down’ while I’m cleaning the table, I might ‘wipe down’ the table, meaning to completely wipe the whole thing and make sure it is nice and clean. ‘Gulp it down’ meaning to drink it quickly. I gulped down the water. I completely finished drinking it all.
The third category of phrasal verbs that is useful to remember is where the verb plus the preposition implies that the action of the verb is ongoing, that it is continuing, or in the past that it continued.
For this type of combination of phrasal verbs we use ‘on’ and ‘away’. A really common example of this is the phrasal verb ‘play on’ meaning to continue playing. While the Titanic was sinking, the band played on. ‘Go on’. Go on is usually said to someone to encourage them to continue speaking. If someone is speaking, and they stop and pause hesitantly, “go on.’ I want them to continue going on with their conversation, continue speaking. ‘Move on’. Move on means to stop staying where you are and continue your progress. “We have talked about this issue a lot, can we please move on?” ‘Work away’. If I have lots of things to do I need to work away from them to try and complete them. So this means I’m continuing working until I have finished. ‘Bang away’ all I hear is construction workers ‘banging away’, meaning they are continuing to band things. You just hear hammers boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Banging all the time! So they are banging away. ‘Fade away’, the process of disappearing is slowly ongoing until it is completely gone. As time went on, gradually the bad memories faded away. Most phrasal verbs in English luckily are from these first three categories.
The fourth encounter is an idiomatic phrasal verb, meaning that the verb and the preposition together don’t necessarily make logical sense. The meaning is kind of opaque and difficult to gather immediately. For these types of phrasal verbs, you don’t necessarily need to sit down are to remember each one of them but for phrasal verbs that you often hear in daily conversation, it’s a good idea to make sure you understand the meaning of them and know how you can use them yourself.
‘Give up’. If you give up something it doesn’t mean you are giving it and holding it up, it means to completely quit and stop doing something.