by Liz Walter
My last blog about phrasal verbs attracted a lot of comments. Many of them were from people who find phrasal verbs difficult. One reason is that so many of them are formed with very common verbs such as get, give, set, or put.
I totally understand why this is a problem, and as I often say to my students, I do apologise for the English language! However, saying sorry won’t help, so here is the first in a series of blogs looking at phrasal verbs formed with common verbs, in this case get.
Firstly, it may sound obvious, but start by learning the most common phrasal verbs. A good place to begin is with a small learner’s dictionary. For example, the Cambridge Essential Dictionary, written for beginners, has only 9 phrasal verbs with get. In other words, the people who wrote that dictionary have already chosen the most useful ones for you.
Secondly, in many phrasal verbs with get, the main verb has a similar meaning, which is ‘to go somewhere, or move your body somewhere’. When the verb has this meaning, the particle (back, off, up, etc) has more or less its usual meaning. Therefore, by learning only this single meaning, you will already be able to understand many phrasal verbs with get:
We got back from London last night. (= we returned)
I get up at 7 o’clock. (= move out of bed)
Don’t lie on the floor – get up! (= stand up)
I got off/on the bus in the city centre. (= leave/enter the bus)
Please stop the car – I want to get out. (= leave the car)
In the Essential dictionary, there are only three phrasal verbs with get that do not have this meaning, so the next step is to learn them:
- If you get away with doing something bad (or not doing something you should do), nobody punishes you for it: He never does his homework. I don’t know how he gets away with it.
- If two people get on or get on with each other, they like each other and are friends. This phrasal verb is used in British English, but not American English: Do you and your sister get on?
- If you were ill or sad, but you get over it, you feel better: I had the flu, and it took weeks to get over it.
And finally, for anyone who noticed the title of this blog, get on with it is a rather rude way of telling someone that they should start doing something immediately!