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Sunday, September 9, 2007

Phrasal Verbs in Everyday Speech

A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb and preposition, a verb and adverb, or a verb with both an adverb and preposition, any of which are part of the syntax (of the sentence), and so are a complete semantic unit. A phrasal verb has meaning which is different from the original verb.

Spoken English use Phrasal Verbs:

Phrasal verbs are usually used informally in everyday speech as opposed to the more formal Latinate verbs, such as “to get together” rather than “to congregate”, “to put off” rather than “to postpone”, or “to get out” rather than “to exit”.

Literal usage:

literal use of phrasal verb is easily understood by readers/listeners for example,

  1. "She opened the shutters and looked outside."
  2. "He walked across the square."
  3. "When he heard the crash, he looked up."

Figurative or Idiomatic Usage:

It is, however, the figurative or idiomatic application in everyday speech which makes phrasal verbs so important:

  • "I hope you will get over your operation quickly."
  • "Work hard, and get your examination over."

The literal meaning of “to get over”, in the sense of “to climb over something to get to the other side”, no longer applies to explain the subject's enduring an operation or the stress of an examination which they have to overcome. It is when the combined meaning of verb plus adverb, or verb plus preposition is totally different from each its component parts, that the semantic content of the phrasal verb cannot be predicted by its constituent parts and so becomes much more difficult for a student learning English to recognize.

Another Example:“The reporters were beating a path to the celebrity’s door.”

“to beat a path to someone’s door.” is an idiomatic phrasal verb meaning “to go and see someone frequently and in large numbers, because the person in demand represents someone well-known, successful and/or famous, and it is important that those calling at the door are able to speak to the person".

Separable Phrasal Verb

Inseparable Phrasal Verb

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