Dealing with phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are among the worst nightmares for English students, especially those who are thinking about sitting the FCE.

What I usually recommend my students when dealing with phrasal verbs is to try to memorise them by classifying them.

Most of my students write lists of phrasal verbs classifying them by their verb. Something like this:

Phrasal verb


look after someone take care of someone
look down on someone consider someone as inferior
look for something search for something
look forward to something await or anticipate something with pleasure
look up to someone admire someone

However, there are better methods. As I said elsewhere, using mindmaps is a very useful method to classify and memorise vocabulary. You can organise these mindmaps by verb; like this:give-phrasal-verbs

or by particle, like this:


Another interesting classifcation is to organise phrasal verbs by meaning, rather than form. For instance, you can make a group of phrasal verbs that can be used to talk about human relationships, like this:


Another useful tip when trying to memorise phrasal verbs -maybe the best so far, is to make up sentences where these phrasal verbs are used in context. For instance:

Phrasal verb Meaning Example
find out discover When I found out that my camera had been stolen I went to the police immediately.
check in register into a hotel or airport Before we can got up to our rooms, we have to check in at the reception.
drop out leave school John is thinking about dropping out after his bad marks last term.
call off cancel The meeting has been called off because some people could not attend.
count on rely on You know you can always count on your family when you are in trouble.

All in all, I think the best way to learn phrasal verbs is to combine all these methods above and work with the new verbs in an active way (by listing, classifying and using them in context).

As usual, you can find this entry in pdf form here.


Learning vocabulary

Increasing our vocabulary range is paramount to improving in our process of language learning. This is why it is so important to develop useful and effective ways of acquiring new words.

It is obvious that learning a list of words by heart is a useless waste of time as we will forget them as fast as we learnt them.

So, how can we add new words to our repertoire?

A very productive strategy is associating new words to those we already know. To do so, we can use what we call mind maps. A mind map is a visual network of concepts that originates from a central node. We add words to the network whose meaning is somehow related to the original source. Let me give you an example:


As you can see the central node is “food” and I have added new words that are semantically related.

We can also have more complex mind maps. For instance, and to continue with “food”:


In this case, from the central node different subcategories originate: “cereal, fruit, dairy products”. From these, I have added words that belong to such groups.

Mind maps can be done on paper, cartboard or by computer, depending on what makes us feel more comfortable and inspired. If you prefer the latter, there are different free online resources that will help you create and save your mind maps.

I have used for the example in this post, but you can also try or, which also look quite cool!

Phrasal verbs with “get”

Any English learner who has studied for longer than 1 year has come across phrasal verbs. And we all know how hard they are to learn!!! That’s why I am going to write several posts with some tips on how to deal with them.

For starters, you can learn (and play) with a bunch of phrasal verbs with “get” following this link.

First of all, have a look at the flascards, flip them to see the phrasal verb, and again to see its meaning. Then, change the study mode and find other way to practise with the expressions you have learnt.

I hope you have fun!

My first blog post

I would like to start this very first post by talking about how I learnt English. I know that my story will not be unlike that of many other language learners but, as it was successful, I believe it is worth sharing.

I started studying English when I was about 6 years old, attending different language schools. Soon after, I also had English lessons at school, which, due to the typical overcrowding in the Spanish education system, were quite boring and useless. In fact, throughout my school and high school years, English was usually considered a “maría” -that’s what Spanish students used to call a doss subject, alongside PE or Arts.

In any case, I soon found that I liked languages and that I was quite good at it. What made me a good student? Well, one of the differences I found with my classmates was that I was always curious to learn new things and to try and use them. So, my motivation was quite high.

I could also see that I was not afraid to make mistakes and that, on the contrary, I was quite talkative even if my grammar or vocabulary was not good. That usually granted some appraisal from my teachers, which gave me a sense of confidence.

When I started high school I was quite certain what I wanted my future to be; I was one of those rare teenagers who really knew what their vocation was. So I chose a path that would take me to university to course English studies so that I would become an English teacher.

During those years, it was difficult to watch English films or TV series but I tried to read English magazines and short books to practise as much as possible. I also had the chance to spend some time in the USA, living with an American family.

And then, I started university! And that was the biggest step in my learning history. As I was taking an English degree, all our tuition was in English, which meant that I experienced almost full linguistic immersion. To make the most of the experience, I used to meet my classmates after lectures to speak in English and prepare for our exams.

So, did I learn everything then? No, of course not! Learning a language is a never-ending process; we can always learn new words, expressions or even grammar rules if our minds are open.

Last but not least, my advice to you? Practise as much as possible, be curious, never lose heart, and take any opportunity to speak, read, write or listen.

Would you like to share your learning story?