What I find fascinating about the English language as such is that there are actually three types of English expressions – formal, colloquial and slang; these three are like separate dimensions of the same language. Colloquial English, which I also refer to as spoken English, is used in everyday situations and is stuffed with phrasal verbs which are also OK to use in more formal situations, and that’s the great thing about them
My native language – Latvian – has only two distinct vocabularies – formal and slang and there are no equivalents to phrasal verbs. But then modern English has been influenced by so many languages – Latin, French, Germanic languages and others – that it’s no surprise you can express nearly every action in so many different ways.
Let’s have a look at the following example. You’re coming back from the local music store where you intended to buy concert tickets but unfortunately you didn’t get any. There’s a number of ways you can put the bad news to your friends.
“I didn’t buy the tickets, I was too late and all of them had been already purchased” is quite a formal way of communicating the message to your peers – note the Past Perfect Tense “had been” and the formal verb “purchased”.
A more friendly way of saying the same thing would be “I didn’t buy the tickets, I was too late and they were all snapped up” or “I didn’t buy the tickets, I was too late and they were all sold out”. Notice the phrasal verbs “to snap up” and “to sell out” – they’re typical to everyday English conversations and they’re not vulgar or rude in any way. As I said above – you can also use the same phrasal verbs in more formal situations with no problems!
So in short a phrasal verb is a verb that consists of the main part – main verb – and the second part – particle. Here’s an example – to give up.
Give is the main verb and up is the particle but together these two words create a completely new meaning – to surrender. Most of the times phrasal verbs are less formal and easier to remember than their formal synonyms.
I just made it up means that whatever I told you about wasn’t real, I had just invented it. But it’s a whole lot easier to say I just made it up instead of I just invented it.
And here’s why phrasal verbs are very important
First of all, it’s much easier to learn a good number of phrasal verbs than their formal synonyms. It’s simply because a single verb combined with different particles can form completely new phrasal verbs with unique meanings. So instead of memorizing new words you just memorize new word combination which is undoubtedly much easier.
Let’s take three words –
- to postpone,
- to extinguish,
- to reconcile oneself with
and their phrasal verb versions –
- to put off,
- to put out
- to put up with
Now tell me – what you think would be more difficult to learn – the first ones or the last ones?
I think anyone will agree that learning how to use one of the simplest English verbs to put combined with three different particles off, out and up is much easier that memorizing the longer words to postpone, to extinguish and to reconcile.
The second reason why phrasal verbs are important – especially in the spoken language – is because they’re less formal, easier to understand and everyone uses them! Of course it won’t do you any harm if you know the formal synonyms of those phrasal verbs but why try to sound very smart and use them when chatting with friends and word colleagues? Just listen to some native English speakers chatting with each other and you’ll realize most of action words that they use in their conversations are phrasal verbs!
Now I’m gonna give you two versions of the same conversation so that you can see how different the end result can be depending on what you use more – formal English or phrasal verbs.
First of all – a normal, friendly conversation packed with phrasal verbs.
- Hi, how are you John, what were you up to during the weekend?
- Hello Matt, I’m great, thanks for asking! I made up with Emma and she moved back in on Saturday night!
- Really? That’s cool man! Great to hear things are looking up for you again!
And now the same conversation but I’ll just replace the phrasal verbs with more formal words – ones that are normally taught at school as part of standard English curriculum.
- Hi, how are you John, what were you doing during the weekend?
- Hello Matt, I’m great, thanks for asking! I resolved the argument with Emma and she relocated into my apartment again on Saturday night!
- Really? That’s cool man! Great to hear things have started to improve for you again!
Now do you see the difference? While the second version of the dialogue is still in normal English, it sounds more formal, it takes a bit longer to tell the same thing, and it doesn’t sound as friendly as the first version of the dialogue!
And on top of that using phrasal verbs will actually make your English more fluent. If you’re among those foreign English speakers who’re struggling with speaking English fluently, it’s of a particular importance to you, so I suggest you look into this and learn at least a few phrasal verbs to make your life easier.
And the best way to learn phrasal verbs as part of natural English conversations is by memorizing them using your subconscious mind. English Harmony System 2.0 is packed full of phrasal verbs and it will definitely improve your ability to speak English in an easy and natural way!
P.S. Are you ready to get on the fast track to spoken English fluency? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!