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Vocabulary: Phrasal Verbs

Want to increase your vocabulary? Don't know what a phrasal verb is? Learn this one technique to expand your vocabulary and make your writing more complex.

Phrasal Verbs

The phrase "look into" can be a phrasal verb, which means its meaning can change depending on the context. For instance, compare the two example sentences below. Does "look into" have the same meaning between them?

The police will look into the crime.
You should look into the cup. 

No. The first one means the police will investigate the crime, and the second one means you should actually look inside the cup.

Because phrasal verbs have these various meanings, it's important to know their one word replacements, particularly when writing anything formal. Nearly every phrasal verb can be replaced with a word that is more precise. Compare the sentences below.

The police will look into the matter.
The police will investigate the matter.

I help out the elderly.
I assist the elderly. 

Choose a replacement for the following phrasal verbs. 

Now it's your turn. Choose the formal replacement for the phrasal verbs below. The first one has been done for you.

  1. go up -> increase
  2. help out
  3. set up
  4. look into
  5. figure out
  6. come up with
Did you get them all correct? Check your answers. 


See if you can locate the phrasal verbs in the sentences below. Once you locate the phrasal verb, replace it with a more precise word. 

  1. Scientists studying these problems have run into a variety of obstacles. 
  2. Further research should be carried out to validate the research.

Did you find them and choose the correct replacement? Check your answers to find out.


Final Remarks

There are hundreds of phrasal verbs, but they all follow the same pattern: verb + preposition and the words make the meaning together. Be aware of phrasal verbs when writing formally, and consult the many phrasal verb lists that can be found on the web.

Also, remember that phrasal verbs should be avoided anytime you need to be specific, like in formal writing. In conversation and presentations phrasal verbs are often preferred. Why do you think that?

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!


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