by Liz Walter
When you are using a language, it is important to understand if a word is formal or informal, so that you can use it in an appropriate way. You might hear people saying dosh for money, or spud for potato, but they wouldn’t write those words in a formal essay. Similarly, a lawyer’s letter might include very formal terms such as heretofore or pursuant to, but nobody uses them in speech or informal writing.
Learners sometimes have problems with this issue when they try to avoid phrasal verbs by using a single word verb instead. This is particularly true when they have a similar word in their own language, for example tolerate in English and tolérer in French or tolerar in Spanish. Although the meaning is the same, tolerate is a more formal word in English. In speech, we would be much more likely to say put up with: I don’t know how she puts up with his behaviour.
Unfortunately, verbs like tolerate are not always so formal that they have a formal label in a dictionary, so here are a few useful ones where it sounds more natural to use the phrasal verb in everything except formal writing:
If you use a single verb in sentences like these, people will understand your meaning. However, you would lose marks in an exam for using words that are too formal. If you want your spoken English to sound as natural as possible, I’m afraid you can’t avoid phrasal verbs. The ones in this list are all common and worth learning.