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How to learn vocabulary


A very tedious way of learning vocabulary is if you are given long lists of words to memorize, for example, every phrasal verb connected with the word ‘look’ (‘look at’, ‘look after’, ‘look for’, ‘look out’, ‘look up’, etc.). Since phrasal verbs are used a lot more in conversational English than they are in formal English, you are going to find a lot of phrasal verbs in conversational settings such as television programmes, radio interviews, detective novels, comics, pop music etc.

One of the best ways of learning phrasal verbs is to learn them in everyday contexts, for example, people’s daily routine. We ‘get up’ in the morning, we ‘wake up’, we ‘put on’ our clothes in the morning, we ‘take off’ our clothes at the end of the day, we ‘turn on’ the coffee maker or the television set, and of course we ‘turn it off’ also. After we eat we ‘clean up’. If we are concerned about our health and our weight, we go to the gym and we ‘work out’.

A wonderful context for phrasal verbs is dating and romance. When a relationship ends, two people ‘break up’. But when they decide that they’ve made a mistake and they really are in love and want to be together, they ‘call each other up’ and they ‘make up.’ However, if your boyfriend ‘breaks up’ with you and it’s really over, or if you decided to ‘break off’ your engagement, then it might take you a few months ‘ to get over it.’ But, you know, sooner or later you’re going to find someone else ‘to hook up with’ or start a relationship with, or you might meet someone nice at work ‘to go out with.’

Another wonderful context for phrasal verbs is travelling and transport. What does an airplane do?” It ‘takes off’. You can say that the plane ‘levels off’ when it remains in horizontal flight, or that it ‘touches down’ when it lands. When you arrive at an airport or in a hotel, you ‘check in’, i.e. you go to a desk and tell the official that you have arrived and show your ticket if you are at the airport. So when you get to the hotel you can save a lot of money if you ‘stay over’. And you just have to make sure you don’t get ‘ripped off’ which means to be treated unfairly or to be cheated.


About ljiljana havran

English language teacher (General & Aviation English), passionate about learning and teaching. Curious, adventurous, a lifelong learner. Love: good books, music, lots of dance.

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