English Language Teaching
Vol. 5, No. 6; June 2012
How to Teach Phrasal Verbs
Cagri Tugrul Mart Department of Languages, Ishik University, Erbil, Iraq Tel: 964-750-308-6122 Received: February 13, 2012 doi:10.5539/elt.v5n6p114 Abstract Teaching phrasal verbs is a difficult area. Many a study has proved that contextualization has an important positive effect on the ability of the students to decipher the correct meaning of a phrasal verb. In this article you will read some useful approaches to the presentation of phrasal verbs through context to improve the students’ level of understanding. This article also suggests some other useful tips for teaching phrasal verbs. Keywords: Phrasal verbs, Context, Song 1. Introduction A Phrasal Verb is a phrase which consists of a verb in combination with a preposition or adverb or both, the meaning of which is different from the meaning of its separate parts: ‘look after’, ‘work out’ and ‘make up for’ are all phrasal verbs (Koprowski, 2005). According to Trask (1993: 208) a phrasal verb is lexical verb “which consists of a simple verb combined with one or more particles” and whose meaning is typically unpredictable. And Phrasal verbs are two-or three-word idiomatic expressions, consisting of a verb and a particle or a combination of a particle and a preposition (Lewis, 1993; Darwin & Gray, 1999). Phrasal verbs have been the source of frustration for learners of English. Many students talk about the difficulties they have using the phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs are widely used by native speakers of English but they have been found to be difficult for second language learners to master (Moon, 1997; Kao, 2001). The subject of how best to teach phrasal verbs is still quite controversial. Although teaching of phrasal verbs has been daunting and difficult for teachers, and therefore tedious for learners, it is necessary to develop our students’ skills in understanding and using them. Since phrasal verbs are frequently used by native speakers both in written and spoken English, students need to be encouraged to learn them. “There is no specified way or a programmed manner in which a student can learn all the phrasal verbs, nouns, adjectives, and idioms. The authors observe that the only way to acquire such knowledge is by extensive reading and listening” (Al-Sibai, 2003). Avoid teaching phrasal verbs in alphabetical lists. “One big advantage of this method is that it is thorough and comprehensive. But, the problem with a long list is that it is one thing to memorize a phrasal verb and its meaning, but quite another to bring the phrasal verb into your active, everyday speaking and listening” (Dainty, 1992). Through this method “many students know the phrasal verb from a list, but then fail to use it or recognize it in their conversations with native speakers. Lists can be useful, but it may be difficult to transfer this knowledge from the written page to your active knowledge” (Dainty, 1992). And also avoid teaching phrasal verbs solely on the basis of the verb in them. For example, it would not be advisable to teach every phrasal verb that incorporates the word "get" in one lesson. The phrasal verbs taught this way have nothing else in common other than the verb in them, and it is very difficult to understand and retain the context of whole phrasal verbs in this way (Norman, 2010). How then are we supposed to teach phrasal verbs? 2. How to Teach Phrasal Verbs? Andrzej Cirocki, a proponent of the ‘text/ context method’, has a useful approach to teach phrasal verbs. He states that if we aim at teaching a few Phrasal Verbs to our students, we should present them in many different real contexts so as to enable them to deduce their exact meaning and to see whether they are transitive or intransitive, separable or inseparable. All these items can be noticed by the students if Phrasal Verbs are presented in authentic contexts (Cirocki, 2003). In his article ‘Teaching...
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