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Phrasal verbs

Watch Genevieve talking about phrasal verbs
The letter from the colonists contained quite a few phrasal verbs. Did you notice any of them? Phrasal verbs are something that lots of learners worry about. There are so many of them in English, and it can be difficult to learn, understand, and remember. My advice is not to worry too much about being able to use phrasal verbs. There’s always another way to say something. But, it is useful to recognise phrasal verbs when you hear them. So let’s take a look at some examples from the letter.
The colonists wrote that they were not willing to put up with being badly treated any longer. If you put up with something, it means that you tolerate something without complaining. So if you’re not willing to put up with something, it means that you aren’t going to tolerate it any longer. Let’s look at another example now.
The colonists felt that the British government was trying to do them out of money. If someone does you out of something, it means that someone cheats you or take something from you unfairly. For example, you could say, I was done out of 50 pounds by my boss. He didn’t pay me my travelling expenses. Have you ever been done out of something? It’s not a good feeling, is it? Let’s look at one more example.
If you chew something over, it means that you think carefully about something. The colonists put a lot of time and effort into writing the Declaration of Independence, so they would have wanted King George to chew it over, to think carefully about it.

Phrasal verbs consist of a verb and one or two particles. The verb and their particles can be separable or inseparable.

Many phrasal verbs have idiomatic meanings. This means that understanding the meaning of the separate parts will not help you to understand the meaning of the whole.

Listen to Genevieve talking about some of the phrasal verbs from the last step.

Now, let’s look at some more phrasal verb examples from the colonists’ letter.

We are never around when decisions are being made and we have no one to stick up for us.

If you stick up for someone, you defend them, for example:

My friend stuck up for me when the other girls were laughing at my clothes.

Here’s another phrasal verb from the letter:

We feel that your government isn’t really looking out for us and our interests.

If you look out for someone, you think of them, and make sure they are okay.

My friend’s coming to live in London. She’s really shy – can you look out for her?

Here’s one more example from the colonists’ letter:

We’ve decided to set out a few complaints in this letter, and we really hope you’ll get round to reading it.

There are two phrasal verbs in this sentence – can you spot them?

If you set something out, you organise it in a clear way. If you get round to something, you find the time to do it, usually after some delay.

I’ve set out my business proposal here, if you’d like to have a look. I’m really sorry – I haven’t got round to finishing that piece of work yet. I’ve not had time.

Now’s your chance to practise using some of this new language! Think about these questions and share your answers in the comments below.

  • Is there anything you find it difficult to put up with?

  • Have you ever been done out of something? What happened?

  • When was the last time you had to chew something over?

  • Is there anything you find it difficult to get round to doing? What is it?

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