I remember once, it must have been 10 years ago, a student in his fifties claimed that he had learned English without ever using a phrasal verb. I told him that was impossible and that he must have learned them without being aware of it.
Now, ten years later, I doubt whether I was right or there might have been a twisted methodology at that time that just avoided phrasal verbs by all means.Let’s face it, many phrasal verbs have their more formal latin based equivalents such as: to put off= to postpone or to set up= to arrange so it just might be possible to reach a certain basic level of English without phrasal verbs, without ever mentioning when you get up or wake up, for example.
Most Spanish-speaking students find phrasal verbs simply devastating. They are made to learn them by heart at school, which in most cases results in frustration and confusion.They end up always questioning if they have got them right. Generally speaking, this happens at all levels and with all age groups.
To make things worse, finding out nouns can be made out of phrasal verbs just throws them off-balance thinking that English vocabulary is definitely impossible to master.
Unfortunately, there are many compound nouns formed with a verb+preposition combination. Some examples:
Here is an update on the news.
At the outbreak of war, I was just three years old.
The health service is suffering from budget cutbacks.
The town has a bypass, which keeps traffic out of the center.
Furthermore, some of these nouns operate as phrasal verbs and some don’t.
Rioting broke out in the middle of the night.
Funds allocated to research have been severely cut back.
There is no verb
to date up and to bypass is used literally:
We passed by the park on the way to the station.
Here are some examples with te verb break.
A new and successful development is a breakthrough.
You break through something such as a barrier ,you succeed in forcing your way through.
In the same song a break up is mentioned:
You break up with your partner or you talk about the end of a marriage as a break-up, e.g
All marriage break-ups are traumatic.
Some people have nervous breakdowns and machines break down i.e stop working.
So, how should you learn these nouns? The first and most important thing is that you notice a phrasal verb is being used and then you might want to look it up in your dictionary and check if there is a noun formed from it. Of course, you should always copy the example together with the definition.
If all this seems like to much work,just go to the BBC learning English sight.There you will find a “Words in the News “section, which often marks out many phrasal verbs and nouns formed from them, as well offering a range of exercises to help you to expand your vocabulary. Here’s a link: