Teaching particle meanings for phrasal verbs
Monday 24 October 2011
by Liz Walter
Is there any value in trying to teach students the meanings of adverbs and prepositions commonly used in phrasal verbs? Could it help them understand phrasal verbs they have never met before?
I was thinking about this the other day when a friend told me she was ‘Hoxtoned out’, by which she meant that she had stayed at the Hoxton hotel in London so many times that it had begun to lose its appeal. Native speakers do this sort of thing all the time. We have no trouble processing the information that an actress ‘corseted up’ to star in a period drama or that a dancer ‘tangoed off’ into another room.
In our book Phrasal Verbs for Natural English, there is one unit on this topic, in which we cover on in the sense of continuing (struggle on, keep on), up in the sense of making things better, more attractive, etc. (perk up, liven up), off in the senses of dividing something (chop off, cordon off) and getting rid of someone or something (frighten off, sell off), and out in the sense of giving something to lots of people (hand out, dish out).
We included this unit because we felt that it was useful to introduce students to the idea that the meanings of particles are not always random, and that it can be helpful for them to look out for patterns in the phrasal verbs they learn. However, my own feeling is that this is quite a tricky thing for students to do at anything other than a very advanced level, and that too much emphasis on teaching particles is likely to be confusing.
One of the things that is so difficult about many phrasal verbs is the juxtaposition of common, polysemous verbs and common, polysemous particles. There are no chapters with headings like ‘Phrasal verbs with give and go‘ in our book – we felt that this (quite common) approach is only likely to confirm students in the idea that they will never master phrasal verbs. Rather than look for patterns, which are often tenuous at best, it is much better, surely, to teach phrasal verbs as single lexical items in common and relevant contexts, particularly for those phrasal verbs we wish our students to use productively.
For comprehension, rather than focusing on the particle, it is almost certainly easier for students to glean meaning by analogy to a complete phrasal verb that they already know. So, for example, if they have been taught ‘eat up’ or ‘swallow up’ in the sense of using up an amount of something such as money or time, they are much more likely to be able to cope with ‘gobble up’ in the same sense than if they have only been taught that ‘up’ is commonly used for using the whole of something.
In the vast majority of cases, the core of the meaning of a phrasal verb resides more in the verb than the particle. Of course, the choice of particle is never random – my friend could not have said she was ‘Hoxtoned up’ with the same meaning – but if a student can understand the meaning of the verb, the context of use will usually be of much more importance in understanding the whole phrasal verb than trying to work out the sense of the particle. The student who is able to produce ‘Hoxoned out’ is way beyond the level of our book!
Delta Development Blog
This blog will be updated at least once a week, so add it to your bookmarks. You can also subscribe to the feed to be notified when it's updated.
Meet the Bloggers
- Bob Dignen & Steve Flinders (February to April 2013)
- Hania Kryszewska & Paul Davis (April to June 2012)
- Louis Rogers (January to March 2012)
- Ken Paterson (December 2011 to February 2012)
- Richard Brown & Lewis Richards (September to November 2011)
- Liz Walter & Kate Woodford (September to October 2011)
- Kyle Mawer & Graham Stanley (April to August 2011)
- Nik Peachey (from November 2010)
- Nicky Hockly (September & October 2010)
- Julie Pratten (July & August 2010)
- Gill Johnson (April 2010)
- Chaz Pugliese (March 2010)
- Luke Meddings (August 2009)
- Lindsay Clandfield (July 2009)
- Duncan Foord (June 2009)
- Scott Thornbury (May 2009)
Teaching Online is essential reading for any teacher interested in online teaching and course delivery. It deals comprehensively with both the tools and the techniques necessary for online language instruction.
DIGITAL PLAY - 2012 ELTONS WINNER IN INNOVATION IN TEACHER RESOURCES! Digital Play is a pioneering book on the use of computer games in language teaching. Authors Kyle and Graham are experts in teaching with technology and training teachers in innovative classroom practice.
Part of the Delta Teacher Development Series. Being Creative takes you on a journey that reveals how all teachers have the potential to become creative. Whether you are experienced or new to the classroom, Being Creative allows your teaching to take flight.
The Company Words Keep
Part of the multi-award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series. The Company Words Keep is a practical and thought-provoking guide for language teachers, showing how the latest insights into “language chunks” can lead to learners acquiring natural and fluent English.
The Book of Pronunciation
Part of the multi-award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series. The Book of Pronunciation is a definitive account of the key role pronunciation plays in teaching and learning, providing a highly authoritative but hugely accessible overview of the essential elements of English pronunciation as well as a wide range of classroom practice.
The Developing Teacher
The Developing Teacher has been awarded the 2009 Duke of Edinburgh/ESU Award for Best Entry for Teachers. The Developing Teacher suggests that teachers themselves are the most powerful agents of change and development in their own professional career.
Culture in our Classrooms
Part of the Delta Teacher Development Series. Culture in our Classrooms acknowledges the role of culture in the English Language Teaching classroom and provides lesson content which is relevant, useful and engaging for students.
The Business English Teacher
From the multi-award-winning DELTA TEACHER DEVELOPMENT SERIES. The Business English Teacher is a book not only for teachers who are thinking of making a career move into the field of business English teaching but also for those who would like to increase their skills and develop their potential.
Teaching Unplugged was awarded the British Council 2010 ELTons UK Award for Innovation. Teaching Unplugged is the first book to deal comprehensively with the approach in English Language Teaching known as Dogme ELT.
Arlington Ebune-Nakeli on Teaching children how to learn :
This could be a very good companion...
July 6, 2015 3:38 pm
Helen Beesley on Film in Action:
Hi Mary, thanks for your message to Kieran, which we’ll...
May 18, 2015 10:07 am
Mary on Film in Action:
Hi kieran I advocate your site everywhere. I currently work in China and...
May 18, 2015 12:56 am
Helen Beesley on Going Mobile :
Going Mobile is not only shortlisted for the 2015 ELTons but is...
April 1, 2015 3:43 pm
Sophie Rome on Financial Fridays with Julie Pratten – Stress Testing for Banks :
March 21, 2015 9:46 am
13 Mar 15
13 Feb 15
30 Jan 15
16 Jan 15
11 Dec 14
27 Nov 14
25 Nov 14
13 Nov 14
30 Oct 14
30 Oct 14
15 Oct 14
6 Oct 14
1 Oct 14
6 Aug 14
2 Jul 14