Teaching Phrasal Verbs
This FREE lesson is taken from You Are The Course Book – Lesson Plans, which is free to download here.
1 set of word cards per small group.
T (teacher) prepares the target vocabulary – one set of phrasal verbs for each small group. Each phrasal verb should be on an individual small piece of card or paper. The phrasal verbs could be:
- chosen by the teacher to fit in with a topic or syllabus
- suggested by SS (student / students)
- chosen at random by T from a phrasal verbs dictionary, with SS suggesting page numbers
1. T gives out a set of cards to each group and asks them to put all the cards out on the table so that everybody can see them all. Then SS put them into two groups – phrasal verbs they know and phrasal verbs they don’t know. T elicits when we use phrasal verbs, e.g. in informal texts and everyday spoken English.
2. T asks SS to shout out phrasal verbs they don’t know. Other SS in other groups help by giving definitions or translations. T reminds SS to use dictionaries and write down the new phrasal verbs. In the case of nobody knowing the phrasal verbs(s), T tries to elicit the meaning by giving example sentences and contexts. By the end of this stage, SS should know the literal meaning of each phrasal verb.
3. Optional: T asks SS to write the literal meaning of each phrasal verb as a way of remembering the meaning, e.g. phrasal verb = to chill out; literal meaning = to relax.
4. SS discuss whether any of the phrasal verbs exist in their first language(s).
5. T drills the phrasal verbs – SS have to listen and repeat.
6. T asks SS to work with their group and mark the stressed syllables in each phrasal verb. SS should notice that both words are stressed. If a phrasal verb consists of more than two monosyllabic words… Group feedback, then drill the phrasal verbs again – listen and repeat.
7. SS work in groups: each SS describes a phrasal verb for the others to guess.
8. How many phrasal verbs can you remember when they are all turned over?
Optional Practice Activities (depending on how much time you want to spend on this session):
Pick a group of phrasal verbs (e.g. 10 different phrasal verbs):
Meaning and Context:
1. Are there any phrasal verbs that you know already? Explain each meaning and give an example sentence or situation where you might use it/hear it.
2. Use a dictionary to check the meaning(s) of each phrasal verb.
3. Match a phrasal verb with its literal meaning.
4. Take a handful of cards. Describe the phrasal verb on a card without saying it.
5. Make two piles of cards – phrasal verbs and definitions. Pick a phrasal verb card and say the definition, then try the activity vice versa.
6. Group the phrasal verbs by particle. Can you see any patterns in terms of form and meaning?
1. Group the phrasal verbs by their connecting sounds: (cv, vc, vv, or cc).
2. Put all of the transitive* phrasal verbs into a group. (*phrasal verbs that take an object)
3. Put all of the intransitive* phrasal verbs into a group. (*phrasal verbs that don’t take an object)
4. Put all of the separable* phrasal verbs into a group. (*transitive phrasal verbs that take an object before or after the particle)
5. Put all of the inseparable* phrasal verbs into a group. (*transitive phrasal verbs that take an object after the particle only)
6. Using Clear Alphabet, group together phrasal verbs that contain the same vowel sounds.
7. Using Clear Alphabet, group together phrasal verbs that contain the same consonant sounds.
8. Put phrasal verbs with silent letters* into a group. (*letters which are not pronounced
1. Put together two or more phrasal verbs into the same sentence.
2. Link phrasal verbs to make a story or dialogue/role play – one in each sentence.
3. Put the phrasal verbs into meaningful categories, where possible.
4. Think of a subject and an object for each phrasal verb (where possible).
5. Think of an item that you could associate with each phrasal verb.
6. Put the phrasal verbs into groups of places where the actions could happen.
7. Put the phrasal verbs into groups to show what time of day the actions might occur, e.g. a) morning, b) afternoon, c) evening, d) night.
1. Put the phrasal verbs into alphabetical order.
2. Put the phrasal verbs into reverse alphabetical order.
3. Make a chain of phrasal verbs: one SS says a phrasal verb, the next says that phrasal plus one more, the next says those two phrasal verbs plus one more, and so on.
4. Set up a group of cards face up. Memorise the arrangement. Turn them face down. Try to find each phrasal verb by turning up the correct card first time.
Pick an individual phrasal verb and choose one of its meanings to explore:
Meaning and Context:
1. Decide whether it has an idiomatic meaning, a literal meaning, or both.
2. Translate it into your language.
3. Say whether it can be replaced by a single verb. If it can, which verb?
4. Decide whether its tone is formal, informal, neutral, or slang.
5. Act it out without speaking – although you can make noises!
6. Draw a picture to represent its double meaning.
7. Analyse the words. Is it possible to try to guess the meaning from the words?
8. Say a sentence with the literal meaning, then the same sentence with the phrasal verb. Compare them. Which sounds better? Why?
9. Think of another phrasal verb that has the same or a similar meaning.
10. Think of another phrasal verb that is connected with the same topic.
11. Think of an opposite phrasal verb (if possible).
12. Think of another phrasal verb that uses the same verb. Compare the meanings.
13. Describe the usual meaning of the verb, without the particle. Does it relate in any way to the meaning of the phrasal verb?
1. Decide whether it takes an object (transitive), no object (intransitive), or can be both.
2. If it is transitive, where can the object go? Is it separable (middle or end) or inseparable (end only)?
3. If it has a noun form, what is it?
4. If it has an adjective form, what is it?
5. Say whether another phrasal verb can be made by adding another particle.
6. What is the sound connection between the words – i.e. (cv), (vc), (vv), or (cc)?
7. Think of some more phrasal verbs that use the same verb.
8. Find one or more idioms that contain this phrasal verb.
1. Use this phrasal verb in a sentence to talk about a past situation.
2. Use this phrasal verb in a sentence to talk about a present situation.
3. Use this phrasal verb in a sentence to talk about a future situation.
4. Use the phrasal verb in a sentence on any topic (using a given verb form).
5. Use the phrasal verb in a sentence based on the topic (using a given verb form).
6. Think of two or more collocations with nouns.
7. Think of two or more collocations with adverbs.
8. Use it to ask a wh- question. The other student(s) answer… a) as themselves, b) as a role play character.
9. Use it to ask a yes/no question. The other student(s) answer… a) as themselves, b) as a role play character.
10. Use it to ask a question with “Have you ever…?” The other student(s) answer… a) as themselves, b) as a role play character.
11. Use it to ask a conditional question. The other student(s) answer… a) as themselves, b) as a role play character.
- T can build a session on phrasal verbs using some of the activities from this list in an order of their choice, depending on the time available.
- SS could make their own dice (p.114) and play the phrasal verbs dice game from Talk a Lot Intermediate Book 1.