Sunday, February 3, 2008

Those pesky phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs  are one of the more annoying parts of learning English. They're annoying in large part because they make no logical sense at all and can be mastered only through memorization. 

A phrasal verb consists of a verb plus one or more prepositions or similar particles, with the combination often having only a tangential relationship with the original verb. 

For example, if you look up the verb get in the dictionary, the number of phrasal verbs that have very little to do with the main meaning  of the verb ("to obtain") is beastly:   
   I get up at 6:00.
   She needs to get over him.
   Get out!
   Get in the car. 
Then look up take or break. It's amazing that anyone ever masters the intricacies of the language.

Several years when I was teaching only part-time, I returned to class too soon after a minor surgery.  (After all, if one doesn't have sick leave, recovery time is an unaffordable luxury.)

As we were reviewing homework, the room suddenly faded to black, my ears started buzzing and the floor began tilting. I grabbed onto a table for stability, thinking, "I will not faint in front of my class. I won't I won't I won't."

Through all the fuzziness, I heard one student's voice clearly:  "Miss Tara, are you going to pass away?"

Even fear that I was going to hit the floor couldn't stop me from correcting her:  "You mean 'pass out' -- and I don't think so now."