Vocabulary Workout: Nix the Phrasal Verb
If you want a stronger vocabulary, you're probably already studying new words, and learning more about the words you already know, maybe by reading Make Your Point each weekday morning.
But you don't want to just know a bunch of words. You want to use them. You want to think of them when you need them, calling them to mind as you talk or write, so that you express exactly what you mean.
You need a vocabulary workout! Your brain needs to break a sweat.
Here's one way to do that. Whenever you spot a phrasal verb, try to replace it with a single, specific verb. I'll show you how.
What's a phrasal verb?
It's a phrase, such as "to bring up" or "to grow out of," that includes a verb (like "bring" or "grow") as well as another little word or two (like "up" or "out of"). And those other little words have to be there for the phrase to make sense.
For example, "to bring up" is a phrasal verb, because we could say "I'll bring that idea up at the meeting," and if we remove "up," then it doesn't make sense anymore: "I'll bring that idea at the meeting." Same for "to grow out of:" "Really, she already grew out of these jeans?" It would make no sense to remove "out of" and say "Really, she already grew these jeans?"
What's wrong with phrasal verbs? Why should I replace them?
There's nothing wrong with them! Don't get me wrong--phrasal verbs are great! They're not errors. They're perfectly good English. Often they're very casual and chill.
Sometimes they're a little too chill if you're trying to speak or write quite formally. At times you may want to grab hold of a phrasal verb and flex your vocabulary muscle by transforming it into a single verb. Often, a more specific one.
The verb you come up with could be any verb at all. It doesn't need to be a fancy one, or one that you've studied recently. It very well may be one you learned way back in childhood.
Phrasal verb: "to bring up."
"I'll bring that idea up at the meeting."
Swap the phrasal verb for a single verb: "I'll _____ that idea at the meeting."
One possible answer: "I'll raise that idea at the meeting."
Phrasal verb: "to grow out of."
"Really, she already grew out of these jeans?"
Swap the phrasal verb for a single verb: "Really, she already _____ these jeans?"
One possible answer: "Really, she already outgrew these jeans?"
You can do this vocabulary workout whenever you want, as often as you want.
Just listen for phrasal verbs as you're enjoying shows, music, reading, or conversation. Take that moment to pause, flex your vocabulary, and grab for a single, specific verb that could replace the phrasal verb.
The point isn't to "fix" what anyone else said or wrote. It's to strengthen your own ability to summon words with speed and precision.
Share this post on Facebook.
Subscribe to "Make Your Point" for a daily vocabulary boost.
We practice nixing a new phrasal every Wednesday.