Phrasal Verbs Explained

Phrasal verbs are verbs with prepositions or adverbs attached to them.

They are easy to understand if they are used literally, but many have completely different meanings from the normal sense of the verb being used and can, therefore, be very confusing for students of English as a foreign language.

Example 1

Everyone will understand the phrasal verb in the following sentence
because the meaning is literal and obvious:

He was looking down at the floor while the teacher was shouting at him.

But what about the same phrasal verb used in a more idiomatic way?

When phrasal verbs are not used literally, they are idioms
just like all other English idioms.

Example 2

She looks down on all her colleagues at work.

This example means: she thinks she is better than her colleagues and therefore has no respect for them.


You can improve your use of phrasal verbs, advanced English vocabulary and idioms with the:

Everyday English Series of advanced vocabulary books by Steven Collins

Book 1

Practical Everyday English

Self-study book that focuses on advanced vocabulary, phrasal verbs and idioms.

Book 2

Advanced Everyday English

A self-study method designed to improve the vocabulary of upper intermediate and advanced students of English.


Book 3

High-Level Everyday English

For students who have reached a very advanced stage in their English studies but still need a little help with difficult everyday vocabulary.


Book 4

Fluent Everyday English

Clear explanations of meanings; realistic examples containing words and idioms previously taught; dialogues and exercises.


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