Saturday January 9th, 2016 Nicoletta

Phrasal Verb Particles

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Nicoletta

Nicoletta

Academic Director at English One
Nicoletta is the co-founder of English One. She holds a Dip. TESOL (licentiate) from Trinity College, London. She is a passionate teacher and teacher trainer with well over a decade of EFL experience.
Nicoletta

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Pesky Phrasal Verb Particles

Firstly, what are particles?

Particles are the non-content words which are (among other uses) used in a variety of combinations with verbs to form Phrasal Verbs. They are also the reason we can’t translate a phrasal verbs’ meaning by separating the verb and the particle. In most cases the verb is more pertinent to the meaning of the phrasal verb, however, the choice of particle is never random and can often be responsible for how a phrasal verb is used in context.

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particles, what are particles, how to use particles, how do particles work, what are a particles, particles, english, english grammar, learn english, learn english grammar, how to learn english, grammar, english one, understanding particles, multiword verbs, multi-word verbs, multi word verbs, phrasal verbs

Consider these examples with the same verb but different particle:

“She carried on working even though she was exhausted.” = continued to work

“The company carried out a satisfaction survey.” = to execute a duty.


THE MOST COMMON PARTICLES ARE:

Adverbial Particles:  Up, in, on, off, down, out, through

Prepositional Particles: at, for, to, with

Identifying the use of a particle in a phrasal verb through analysis and observation is key because there are no hard and fast rules to follow, and over 400 known phrasal verbs.

HERE IS A QUICK GUIDE TO GET YOU STARTED:

On – gives a sense of continuation

  • To keep on.
  • To struggle on in your quest.
  • To go on.

Up – makes something better or more positive (or the opposite)

  • To do your hair. (see phrasal verbs for more about separating phrasal verbs)
  • To liven up a party.
  • To build up someone’s confidence.
  • His inspiration dried up.

Off – gives a sense of division or to get rid of something or someone

  • Her shoe came off as she ran.
  • To be cut off by a car in traffic.
  • To peel off a jacket because it’s hot.

Out – to give or take something.

NOTE: This is quite abstract, so you really need to think outside the box.
  • To print out a document = take from a computer
  • To dish out punishment = give punishment to a naughty child, like no TV or sweets.
  • To give out the exam papers = to give students the test papers for an exam

NICOLETTA'S HOT TIP:
Native speakers have a knack for making up phrasal verbs based on their current situation or feeling. The context helps one to understand the use of the particle too, and therefore understanding meaning. In these cases, context is everything and you really have to delve into that to gain understanding. Analyzing won’t always work, sometimes you have to just “feel” it. Observe the person speaking, what is their body language telling you?

Consider this native example:

“I’m all teched out!” = I don’t want to deal with technology anymore!

Perhaps the person has to work on their computer or smart devices a lot and is frustrated. The particle OUT in this example = reached the end/finished/done.


NICOLETTA’S FAVOURITE PHRASAL VERB RESOURCES ARE:

  1. Work on Your Phrasal Verbs.
  2. Collins Phrasal Verb Dictionary.
  3. These apps for Android devices are wonderful – and free!

WHAT TO DO NEXT?
There are many ways to improve your English – keep reading these posts, find other websites that can help you, download an app for your phone or contact us. You can join one of our specialized English courses or have private online lessons. We are here to answer your questions!
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About the Author

Nicoletta

Nicoletta is the co-founder of English One. She holds a Dip. TESOL (licentiate) from Trinity College, London. She is a passionate teacher and teacher trainer with well over a decade of EFL experience.

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