Phrasal verbs can be a real nightmare for English learners.
They tend to be tricky and illogical. However, you can’t escape from them. Everyday, informal language used by native speakers, in lyrics, dialogues in movies or any pieces of text in social media are full of them. In other words - if you don’t know phrasal verbs, you can’t really speak English. We will try to make them a bit more “friendly” today.
Phrasal verbs are frequently used
The first thing you need to realise is that the British, the American and other native speakers of English use phrasal verbs all the time and without giving much thought to it. If you are listening to one of them, you understand every single word but still can’t grasp the meaning of them put together, most probably it’s because of the phrasal verbs used.
Phrasal verbs are used in both formal and informal language. It is a common opinion that they are more typical of informal speech. As a matter of fact, it is a bit more complex. That’s true that in case of many phrasal verbs there are other words and expressions that can be used instead and sound more formal. One example might be set up = implement or sort out = arrange.
The reason for this situation is the fact that for centuries English was influenced by other languages and they left their marks. Words of Latin, French or Italian roots were more often and eagerly used by the upper-class. Nowadays, the world of science and politics also utilizes them more commonly whereas phrasal verbs dominate everyday communication. To put it differently - if you give a speech at a conference or write your diploma work in English, you will want to use the formal equivalents. However, if you discuss exactly the same topic with your colleague or friend or even give a lecture to your regular students in college - you will not avoid phrasal verbs.
Transitive vs. intransitive phrasal verbs
Even though it might seem scary, it is not that complicated. When you learn a new phrasal verb, it might be handy to know if it is transitive or intransitive.
In short, transitive verbs are those that need an object to complete them, intransitive verbs, on the other hand, are completely fine by themselves. Let’s have a look at break up with - it makes no sense without an object, a sentence like I broke up with - doesn’t really tell us anything, we need a further piece of information - with whom?
I broke up with my boyfriend . - That sounds much better (well, maybe not for the ex-boyfriend in the sentence;).
An example of an intransitive verb might be wake up. In this case subject is enough, the sentence is complete without an object: I woke up. A sentence of this kind can be further developed by adding adverbials of time, place manner etc., however, an object is not needed here.
The best and most efficient way of learning phrasal verbs is definitely in context - try to learn the whole sentence rather than the verb itself.