Saturday, May 18, 2013

Phrasal verb or multi-word verb? Is there any difference?

I have to confess I'm a bit old-fashioned and resistant to change. Like a lot of students, I'm used to calling those special (and problematic) verbs consisting of a verb and a particle phrasal verbs. This is how they are referred to in dictionaries and in many grammar books and practice books dedicated to the subject.
A lot of course books and some websites, however, are now referring to multi-word or multi-part verbs instead.
One advantage of this new system is meant to be that we know that the category now known as prepositional verbs always take an object. On the other hand, I'm not sure how lumping Type 1 and Type 2 together makes anything easier. I also find it rather confusing that in this system the term, phrasal verb is still used but only refers to what I would call Type 1 and Type 2 phrasal verbs, and not to Types 3 or 4.
The new terms haven't had much effect on the Internet yet, where phrasal verb is overwhelmingly how all these verbs are referred to. Google Search brings up 2,870,000 hits for "phrasal verbs", 31,700 for "multi-word verbs", and 82,600 for "multi-part verbs". At Google Books the story is the same, with 82,700 hits for "phrasal verbs", only 2,770 for "multi-word verbs" and virtually nothing for "multi-part verbs".
But we can't turn the clock back; the term multi-word verbs, (or multi-part verbs) is apparently here to stay, so in this post I want to look at how the two systems currently being used in EFL/ESL teaching compare.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

To separate or not? (2) - a little experiment

As you know, there are many phrasal verbs which can take a direct object, and where that direct object can come between the verb and the particle or after the particle. These are often known as seperable phrasal verbs:
  • He took his hat off
  • He took off his hat
We know that if the direct object is a pronoun we need to separate, but what about if it's a noun. Do native speakers usually separate or not? We'll look at some possible reasons for separating after the exercise.
So I thought I'd do a little experiment and see what Google came up with: how are separable phrasal verbs being used on the web? What I want you to do is decide which of each pair you think is more natural, and then we'll compare the results with the relative numbers of Google hits. All the sentences are grammatically possible, so there aren't really any wrong answers. Just compare your answers with what happens on the Internet.

Friday, May 3, 2013

To separate or not? (1) - get something across

I was recently doing some material in class on phrasal verbs. We were using a CAE course book, which told the students they needed to know whether a phrasal verb is transitive or intransitive (does it take an object or not). And if it's transitive, they should know whether it's separable or inseparable.
Personally I'm not so convinced students need to know the grammatical properties of each phrasal verb so much as seeing them in context and getting practice in using them. But that's another story.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Word families

King's College, Cambridge - photo by Andrew Dunn at Wikmedia Commons
Complete the word families from the word given. Based loosely on the Academic Word List (AWL), these exercises will give you some practice in word formation.