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Phrasal verbs: the two words that are guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of English students everywhere. But phrasal verbs, although they can seem difficult, should cause you no fear, and should be treated just like any other vocabulary word we learn. Let’s break it down first.

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What is a phrasal verb? A phrasal verb is a verb that we combine with a particle, normally either an adverb or a preposition. The thing that makes phrasal verbs difficult is that we can’t infer their meaning by knowing only the meaning the verb itself. We need to memorize the definition of each phrasal verb.

Today we’re going to look at three phrasal verbs that utilize the verb ‘put:’ put off, put up, and put out.

“Put off” can mean two things: to delay something or to discourage someone from doing something. Let’s look at some examples:

~ “You should do your work now; don’t put it off.” (delay)
~ “After he told me how bad the hotel was, it put me off staying there.” (discourage)


Note that when it means “to delay,” we must use “put off” as a transitive verb (with an object). Consider the following sentence:

~ “Thanks to the traffic, I was delayed.”
~ “The traffic delayed me.”


In both of the above examples, we could not use the phrasal verb “put off” instead of the word “delay.” When we use it to mean ‘discourage from doing something,’ we follow it with the gerund.

~ “I don’t want to put you off visiting the island, but I’d think twice about going.”

The next phrasal verb, “put up,” also has two different meanings: to stand (with the word ‘with’), and to let someone stay at your house briefly. For example

~ “I don’t care if you don’t like my music, you’ll have to put up with it.” (stand)
~ “Why do you put up with her bad behavior?” (stand)
~ “My friend got kicked out of his apartment, so I’m putting him up for the time being.”
~ “I have a spare room, I can put you up.”


The last phrasal verb we’ll discuss here, “put out,” means to cause someone an inconvenience. For example:

~ Person A: “Are you sure I’m not putting you out?”
Person B: “Hush! It’s not a problem at all.”
~ “She’ll always ask for favors, even if it puts you out.”


Hopefully these examples have taken away some of the natural fear of learning phrasal verbs, and shown you that as long as we memorize them one by one, example by example, we can learn them easily. Try your hand at the exercises below for practice.

A. Edstrom

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