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Numer: 1072
Dział: Artykuły

Teaching vocabulary - introduction to the phrasal verbs

Vocabulary is the most important area in language learning. The importance of vocabulary changes and it depends on teaching aims. Nowadays, the ability of effective communication is the main aim of teaching, so teachers try to develop students’ communicative competence and vocabulary are the key to it. Communication is strongly conditioned upon the level of vocabulary. When it is limited, it distorts or even sometimes it blocks up communication. With a wide vocabulary, a person can communicate effectively even though he/she may be very weak in grammatical knowledge. It means that teachers must pay a lot of attention to constant, regular work on enriching students’ vocabulary.
Very important and common feature of English language are phrasal verbs. According to Macmilan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners a phrasal verb is a verb formed from two (sometimes three) parts; a verb and an adverb or preposition. Most are formed from a small number of common verbs (such as get, go, come, put and set) and a small number of adverbs and prepositions (such as away, out, off, up and in). The number of verbs that can form phrasal verbs in English is limitless. But the number of short adverbs: about, across, around, down , by, in, off, on, out, over, through, to, aside, away, back, together and prepositions: about, across, around, down , by, in, off, on, out, over, through, to, at, for, from, of, into that can accommodate this structure is much smaller. They include more or less the words in bold, most of which serve as both adverbs and prepositions.Here are some examples of phrasal verbs from Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners:

With short adverbs:
• give up = surrender; quit
• find out = learn; get information about
• take off = leave quickly; fly away

With prepositions:
• work on = give effort and thought to
• look after = take care of
• come across = find by chance

With a short adverb plus a preposition:
• put up with = tolerate
• crack down on = deal firmly with
• look up to = respect

Phrasal verbs are an important feature of English. Their importance lies in the fact that they form such a key part of everyday English. Not only are they used in spoken and informal English, but they are also a common aspect of written and even formal vernacular. Understanding and learning to use phrasal verbs, however, is often problematic and there are many reasons for this. The meaning of a phrasal verb, for example, often bears no relation to the meaning of either the verb or the particle which is used with it. This means that phrasal verbs can be difficult both to understand and to remember. Neither does it help that many phrasal verbs have several meanings, nor that their syntactic behaviour is often unpredictable.
Phrasal verbs have roots back in the earliest Old English writings, where verbs with short adverbs and prepositions were used in a very literal sense showing mostly the direction, place, or physical orientation of a noun in the sentence, such as in the following example:
The boy walked out. (direction)
The boy stood by. (place)
The boy held his hand up. ( physical orientation)
Like short adverbs, prepositions also indicated direction, place, or physical orientation; but they also specified a relationship between the verb and an object in the sentence.
The thief climbed out the window. (direction)
The painter stood by the house. (place)
Hang it over the fire. (physical orientation)
Over the centuries, the combinations of verbs with short adverbs and prepositions increased. Their meanings diversified by imperceptible degrees. Eventually, they came to be the most productive means for the creation of new verbs that exists in Modern English.To illustrate this diversification of meaning, below are presented some of the nuances that the short adverb out acquired over several centuries. In the ninth century, it had the literal meaning of moving toward the outside such as in walk out and ride out. But by the fourteenth century, out had added the idea of making something audible such as in cry out and call out. By the fifteenth century, it had added the idea of bringing something to extinction such as in die out and burn out. By the sixteenth century, it had added the idea of apportioning something to everyone such as in pass out and parcel out. And by the nineteenth century, it had acquired the idea of removing the contents of something such as in clean out and rinse out. What’s more phrasal verbs can have different syntactic patterns. The possible syntactic patterns that accommodate phrasal verbs are varied, but the following five are considered basic:

• Verb adverb (VA): wash up
• Verb adverb object (VAO): take off your hat
• Verb object adverb (VOA): take your hat off
• Verb preposition object (VPO): work on a
• Verb adverb preposition object (VAPO): come
up with a plan
Difficulties in teaching phrasal verbs happen very often because they are the aspects of English that is not as straightforward to teach as other aspects are. Many teachers avoid or put off teaching phrasal verbs until students are at a higher advanced level.

Cambridge International Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs, CUP, 1997
Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, Macmillan Publishers Limited 2002
Makkai A.Idiom Structure in English. Mouton,1972
Meyer G.A. The two-word verb: A dictionary of the verb-preposition phrase in American English, Mouton, 1976
Oxford English Dictionary: The compact edition,(Oxford: University Press,1979)

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