AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this
week on Wordmaster -- English teacher Lida Baker joins us from Los
Angeles to talk about phrasal verbs.
RS: They're all around us, especially in spoken English. The first word
is a verb. The second word, sometimes even a third, is usually a
AA: Phrasal verbs, also known as two-word verbs, have a reputation for
being tough for English learners. So what does Lida Baker think?
LB: "I think that is a myth."
LB: "Phrasal verbs are not hard to learn, as long as you learn them in a
context. I think what has given phrasal verbs a reputation for being
difficult is the way they are traditionally taught, which is that
students are given long lists of verbs -- you know, for instance every
phrasal verb connected with the word 'go.' So 'go on,' 'go up,' 'go
out,' 'go in,' 'go away,' 'go through,' OK? That's a very tedious way of
RS: "Well, give us some of your strategies."
LB: "All right. Well, one thing we should keep in mind about phrasal
verbs is that they are used a lot more in conversational English than
they are in formal English. So you are going to find a lot of phrasal
verbs in conversational settings such as ... "
RS: "Come on (laughter)."
LB: " ... television programs, radio interviews, and pop music is a
wonderful, wonderful source for phrasal verbs. I think the best way to
learn, or one of the best ways of learning phrasal verbs is to learn
them in everyday contexts. One good one is people's daily routine. We 'get
up' in the morning, we 'wake up,' we 'put on' our clothes in the morning,
we 'take off' our clothes at the end of the day, we 'turn on' the coffee
maker or the television set, and of course we 'turn it off' also. After
we eat we 'clean up.' If we're concerned about our health and our weight,
we go to the gym and we ... "
RS: "Work out."
LB: "There you go. You see, so as far as our daily routine is concerned,
there are lots and lots of phrasal verbs. Another wonderful context for
phrasal verbs is traveling. What does an airplane do?"
AA: "It 'takes off.'"
LB: "It 'takes off,' that's right. And lots of phrasal verbs connected
with hotels. So when we get to the hotel we 'check in,' and you can save
a lot of money if you ... "
RS: "Stay -- "
LB: "'Stay over,' right."
AA: "And you just have to make sure you don't get 'ripped off.'"
LB: "That's right! I'm glad that you mentioned 'ripped off,' because a
lot of phrasal verbs are slang, such as ripped off. And most of them do
have sort of a formal English equivalent. So to get ripped off means to
be treated unfairly ... "
AA: "To be cheated."
LB: "To be cheated, yeah. And there are lot of other two-word or phrasal
verbs that you might find, for instance, in rap music. For example, to 'get
down' means to, uh -- what does it mean?"
RS: "It means to party, doesn't it?"
LB: "To go to parties."
AA: "Have a good time."
LB: "Right. Another wonderful context is dating and romance. For example,
when a relationship ends two people 'break up.' But when they decide
that they've made a mistake and they really are in love and want to be
together, they 'call each other up' ... "
RS: "And they 'make up.'"
LB: "And they make up. Now, if your boyfriend 'breaks up' with you and
it's really, really over, then it might take you a few months to 'get
over it.' But, you know, sooner or later you're going to find someone
else ... "
AA: "To 'hook up' with -- "
LB: "To hook up with."
AA: " -- to use a current idiom."
LB: "Right. Or you might meet someone nice at work to 'go out with.'"
RS: "So what would you recommend for a teacher to do, to build these
contexts, so that the students can learn from them?"
LB: "I think the best thing for a teacher to do, or for a person
learning alone, is to learn the idioms in context. And there are
vocabulary books and idiom books that will cluster the phrasal verbs for
the student. There are also so many wonderful Web sites. I mean, if you
go to a search engine and you just type in 'ESL + phrasal verbs,' you're
going to run across -- and there's another one, 'run across' -- you're
going to find lots of Web sites that present phrasal verbs in these
contexts that I've been talking about. And also grammar sites which
explain the grammar of phrasal verbs, which I haven't gotten into
because we just don't have the time to discuss it here. But in doing my
research for this segment I found lots of Web sites that do a really
great job of explaining the grammar of phrasal verbs."
AA: Lida Baker writes textbooks for English learners and teaches in the
American Language Center at the University of California at Los Angeles.