Phrasal verbs are usually the enemy of ESL learners. They can be confusing because the meaning of the verb changes based on the preposition that follows it.

So a verb by itself means one thing, a verb with a preposition means another, and a verb with a different preposition means something entirely different!

Common Mistakes Using Phrasal Verbs

1. Avoiding Them

Some ESL learners are so terrified of phrasal verbs, they choose to avoid them altogether. This is not a good approach! Phrasal verbs are used so often in everyday English that it’s crucial to learn them.

It’s best to dedicate a notebook just to learning these words. In your notebook, make a list of common phrasal verbs and write their meaning. Then, practice using them every time you have the opportunity to speak or write in English.

2. Saving Them for Later

So, you don’t want to avoid phrasal verbs altogether, but you’re thinking you’ll just wait until you have an advanced level of English. This is also not a good idea. You should start learning these words immediately!

Learning phrasal verbs early on will help you advance because they are commonly used in everyday English.

3. Learning One Verb at a Time

OK, you’ve decided to learn phrasal verbs. You’re going to start with the verb, Take, and learn every phrasal verb beginning with Take. Yikes! This sounds really difficult!

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This method is difficult because there are so many different meanings and they are not similar to each other. For example, take back, take into, take after, take up, take out, take off, are just a few and you can see they are all about completely different topics.

Instead, it’s better to focus on words that are related to a particular subject, such as food, shopping, money, jobs, and transport. For example, words related to food might include pig out, eat out, whip up, warm up, and fry up. Take these words, and put them into a Food category in your notebook.


It’s important to get a notebook and organize the pages into subjects. Write each phrasal verb under a subject and include the definition and a sample sentence.

Look at your notebook often, and practice using the words when you have a chance to speak or write in English. The more you practice, the more you will be able to remember; lowering your chances of making mistakes!