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Phrasal verbs: Teaching phrasal verbs using equivalents/ definitions – tips and activities

Level: Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Reference material

Tips and activities for teaching phrasal verbs to intermediate students and above.

Introduction Stage one Stage two Stage three Stage four Stage five

Anchor Point:introIntroduction

Many phrasal verbs can be said or written another way. This can be a Latinate one-word equivalent (to put out a fire is to extinguish a fire) or by a series of words (to get on well with someone is to have a good relationship with someone). Whether it is one or several words, many learners of English tend to favour the non-phrasal verb equivalent. This often makes them sound formal:

“Can I remove my shoes?” and sometimes inappropriate "Just a minute, let me extinguish my cigarette".

It is important to point out to learners that phrasal verbs are often a more informal way of saying something, and as such they are more common in spoken English than in written English. When teaching phrasal verbs according to their equivalents, it is not enough just to have a simple matching exercise. There must be some opportunity to use the language.

In the lesson at the bottom of the page the phrasal verbs and their equivalents are all personalized with a Find Someone Who activity.

Aim: To present and practise 12 phrasal verbs

Level: Intermediate and above

Anchor Point:1Stage one

Distribute the worksheets and explain the Find Someone Who activity. The learners must go around the class asking each other questions to find a person who fits one of the sentences. When they find that person, they write their name in the space. Write the first two sentences on the board and elicit the question for each (Do you recover from illnesses very quickly? Do you often begin arguments with strangers?) Tell them that they cannot have the same name written down more than two times during this exercise. Instruct everyone to stand up and begin the activity.

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Anchor Point:2Stage two

After five to seven minutes, stop the activity and ask learners to sit down. Do some feedback on the activity, asking what learners found out about each other. Tell them that today they are going to learn some phrasal verbs related to the Find Someone Who activity they have just completed.

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Anchor Point:3Stage three

Distribute the second worksheet. Ask learners to match the phrasal verb to its equivalent. To help them, each phrasal verb is listed with some common collocations (words that go with other words). Tell learners that they can look at their original Find Someone Who worksheet for more help.

Answers: a) 8 b) 1 c) 2 d) 7 e) 9 f) 12 g) 10 h) 3 i) 4 j) 11 k) 6 l) 5

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Anchor Point:4Stage four

Write on the board the following phrasal verbs: bump into, get over, launch into, get on well with, give back, put out, talk over, bring up, put off, take off, look into, take down.Tell learners to rewrite the completed sentences from the first worksheet (Find Someone Who) using the phrasal verbs on the board. Tell them that they must try to do this without referring back to the second worksheet.


____ gets over illnesses very quickly; ______ often launches into arguments with strangers;
 ____ borrows things but sometimes doesn’t give them back; _____ has looked into changing jobs/schools recently; _____ gets on well with his/her brothers and sisters; _____ was brought up in the countryside; ____ puts everything off until the last minute; ____ likes to talk things over before making a decision; _____ never takes down notes in class; _____ bumped into an old friend last week; ______ has put out a fire; _____ doesn’t take off their socks when they go to bed.

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Anchor Point:5Stage five

Ask learners to write an original sentence about themselves using each of the phrasal verbs in their notebooks. Learners could do this for homework. Anchor Point:bottom

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Thanks Susan! Is it more phrasal verb worksheets you're after or something else?

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  • Please more pdf worksheets! I love them and my students love them.

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  • The worksheet and teacher's notes for this lesson are available at the 'Related resources' link, just above these comments.

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  • This lesson would be very useful for my students but how do I access the worksheets?

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  • this lesson has proved to be very enjoyable and successful in teaching the related phrasal verbs.

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