(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)
This posting is discussed on my YouTube video Big Mistake ESL Teachers Make With Phrasal Verbs:
Ernesto was looking unusually pale when he walked into my class. I asked him if he was feeling all right, and he said that his stomach was hurting. Then I asked him:
“Do you feel like you are going to throw up?”
He just kind of looked at me, not knowing what to say. I realized that he didn’t understand the phrasal verb, “throw up,” and I was sure that he wouldn’t understand “vomit,” so my only recourse was to pantomime someone throwing up. Then he got it.
According to The Grammar Book by Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman, outside Germanic languages (English, German, Dutch and the Scandiavian languages), few languages have phrasal verbs. “Thus most ESL/EFL students will find such verbs strange and difficult. Yet they are such an important part of colloquial English that no one can … understand conversational English easily without a knowledge” of them.
About once a term at my college, we invited a guest speaker to give a talk to all the international students, from beginning-skill levels to advance. For example, a policeman talked about how to stay safe on and off campus; a counselor discussed common misunderstandings students have with plagiarism; a student leader provided information about campus clubs and activities. Even though the speakers were making an effort to make their talks comprehensible to non-native speakers, they couldn’t help but continually peppered their speech with phrasal verbs. Some examples:
Policeman: If you drink and drive, you could end up at the police station.
Counselor: One reason students copy from a classmate is because they’ve taken on too many courses.
Student leader: We hope you’ll help us put forward some ideas for improving our clubs.
Imagine substituting these phrasal verbs with phrase blah-blah. This is kind of what many of the students heard:
“… you could blah-blah at the police station”
“…they’ve blah-blah too many courses.”
“…help us blah-blah some ideas.”
No wonder so many of students had blank looks on their faces.