Multi-word verbs (phrasal verbs)


Class / Level : Intermediate

Students: Adults / Young learners

Time :

Length of lesson : 40 minutes

Number of students : 12

Lesson aim : To practise some multi-word verbs (phrasal verbs)

New language :

Assumptions : That the students have some experience of these verbs but are still not confident about using them.

Note: The expression multi-word verbs is used more frequently these days than, for example, phrasal verbs, for verbs that are made up of more than one word. They are a problem for learners because there are so many of them and some of them tend to be rather colloquial. Knowing the meaning of the separate words does not necessarily give the meaning of the phrase as a whole, e.g. let in, let out, let on, let up, let down, let go, let fly.

Native speakers use them without even thinking and would probably be surprised if someone pointed out how many we use. Learners of English need to be able to recognise and understand them at the very least, but ideally they should also be able to bring them into their own speech as well.

A complication with multi-word verbs is that some of them can be split up (He took down the decorations or He took the decorations down) and some of them can’t (He got up in the morning but not He got in the morning up). On the whole, it’s best to stick to ones that stay together at first, unless they are easy examples that the students will understand.

Step 1

Either ask the students to use their dictionaries or hand out dictionaries. Ask them to look up the word get. Point out the very large number of meanings there are for get as well as for get + another word or words. Let them look through these.

Step 2

Tell the students to work in pairs. Tell them to replace the italicized words in the text below with a multi-word verb using get. They can use their dictionaries. Move around the room to support them as necessary.

climbed out of my bed at 7 o’clock this morning. It was time to go to work! My wife didn’t move. I wasn’t surprised. We are not friendly these days and don’t talk much. I could never explain what I really wanted to say. Anyway she was recovering from a bad cold. I didn’t mind too much. I was doing well at work and believed that we could survive this difficult period. However, she didn’t know what I was doing at work. She didn’t know that I was trying to become friendly with my secretary. I didn’t want her to know. I knew it would make her feel unhappy. My main ambition was to be successful. To be better than the others! I had tried to explain this to my wife but she didn’t seem to understand.

Remind the class that to use get so often in the same paragraph would be a poor style of writing.

Step 3

Go through the passage with the class. List all the multi-verbs used on the board. Explain the meaning of any where necessary.

Step 4

Now divide the students into groups. Give each of the groups examples of multi-word verbs. Ask them to look them up in their dictionary if they do not know the meaning. (Note: some have a variety of meanings!)

  • put: put up with / put off / put forward / put upon
  • make: make up with / make out with / make away with / make up
  • turn: turn in / turn over / turn up / turn down

Step 5

Play the students a tape that includes numerous examples of multi-verb verbs. Ask them to spot the verbs and list them down. The tape will need to be played more than once.

When Tom rang last week, I could hardly make out what he was saying. I hung on for a while but it was impossible. I shouted to him that I would ring back but I’m not even sure if he heard me. I rang off and then called up his number. We had a number of important matters to talk about. We needed to clear up some disagreements. When we finally managed to talk, I brought up a number of important questions. I tried to put across my ideas but he didn’t accept my ideas. I tried to stand up for my ideas but he cut me off. In the end I ran out of things to say and hung up. I was quite fed up!

When Tom rang last week, I could hardly make out what he was saying. I hung on for a while but it was impossible. I shouted to him that I would ring back but I’m not even sure if he heard me. I rang off and then called him up. We had a number of important matters to talk about. We needed to clear up some disagreements. When we finally managed to talk, I brought up a number of important questions. I tried to put across my plans but he didn’t accept my ideas. I tried to stand up for my ideas but he cut me off. In the end I ran out of things to say and hung up. I was quite fed up!

Step 6

Ask them what multi-word verbs they heard and list them on the board. Ask them about the meaning and if necessary provide example sentences to clearly demonstrate the meaning. If necessary, play the tape again.

Step 7

Hand out the text (when all the listening activities have been completed) and go through all of the multi-verb words with the class. Ensure that they are clear about the meaning of each one.