Phrasal Verbs That Have Multiple Meanings?

What is the First Step?

Let’s get right down to business about how to learn phrasal verbs with more than one meaning. First, you need to identify the meanings – write them down. This is easy. You can find them in phrasal verbs dictionaries, or online. But reading is not enough to really master this vocabulary.

How many different ways should I study?
The short answer is lots. You should study in several different ways to really get a deep understanding. You should combine reading, listening, taking pictures, and making your own sentences. If you have other study ways to study, you can do them too. Let’s take a look at these a bit closer.

We have already started looking at this method in the opening comments of this article. Beyond finding the meanings in dictionaries, here are a few ideas. You can of course, read the scripts of the listening practice audios that you will use (see below).

Next, you can look for the synonyms in the thesaurus (there is an excellent one online at Not all the synonyms will match one usage of the phrasal verb. You have to read the whole sentence with the synonym in to see if it works or not. This practice will give you a better sense of the meanings of the phrasal verbs.

Traditional flashcards are another way to work on your reading. You may decide to use flashcards online, and get even more efficient than paper flashcards, and learn very rapidly. Of course, regular practice is essential for flashcards to help you learn.

Intensive listening is the best way to learn phrasal verbs when you are doing listening practice. You want to do both shadowings and listen and repeat activities. These are the two basic ways to practice intensive listening, and there are other ways to practice listening too, like with audio flashcards.

Audio flashcards can be made with flashcard software such as Mnemosyne, or Supermemo, among others. Instead of flashing up a word that is written, the software will play an audio file. This could be the phrasal verb being spoken. The reverse could be a definition of the verb or some other information that you want to study. Flashcards are really limited only by your imagination. You could even use pictures if you wanted to.

Make Pictures
To use pictures to study phrasal verbs, you have to identify one characteristic picture that holds the chosen meaning of the phrasal verb. This will be easy for some phrasal verbs, and more difficult to imagine for others. The best pictures are ones that you think of yourself. Second, best are pictures that you look at and copy, drawing your own copy. The third best is to just use pictures that you find already made, and you don’t draw them. But drawing your own, like making your own sentences, is best.

Make Your Own Sentences
After you have studied the phrasal verbs for a while try copying out the sentences from the audio scripts. Once you have done this, you can try to change the sentence a bit while keeping the phrasal verb in it, and keeping the meaning. After that step, you can make a bigger step to making your own sentence. Be sure to get them checked by someone else for correctness.

There are many ways to study phrasal verbs, and they all support each other. You can find more ideas and audios for listening practice at English Listening Be sure to sign up for the free e-zine to be sent to your e-mail address when you are there.

Download the  Phrasal verbs ebook



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