Phrasal verbs can be important for IELTS as someone who can use them naturally shows that they have a good command of the English language. They can be used in speaking but also in IELTS letter writing, though this is mostly in informal letters.
You also want to be able to recognise them if someone else uses them in their writing or speaking otherwise you may misunderstand what they are saying - so knowing them will help with listening and reading as well.
Phrasal verbs are verbs plus a preposition or an adverb (or followed by two).
When these two words are put together, they have a different meaning to what each word means on its own. Here is an example.
You probably know that the word ‘put’ means to place something somewhere, such as “I put the book on the table”, and the word ‘up’ means to in or towards a higher position.
However, when these words are put together, the meaning completely changes.
It is not this straight forward though. Some phrasal verbs must take an object, and some can be put either side of the object.
For example, look at this illustration with the phrasal verb ‘let down’ (= disappointed):
"I felt let down by my friend".
"My friend really let me down".
Another difficulty is that they are verbs, which obviously means they take a tense and will change according to whether it is past, present or future.
Look at this example with 'break up' (= to end a relationship):
I broke up with my girlfriend last week (= past)
I hope my girlfriend does not break up with me (= present)
I've broken up with my girlfriend (= present perfect)
I think I'm going to break up with my girlfriend (= future)
And also some have more than one meaning:
I've fallen out with my friend
= Argue and be on bad terms with someone
I eat a lot of sweets. I hope my teeth don't fall out
= Become loose and unattached (usually hair or teeth)
As noted above, phrasal verbs can be useful for IELTS, particular to improve your speaking and letter writing when using informal phrasal verbs.
That said, as with any new vocabulary, you have to be careful with the way you learn them. Its usage needs to be natural.
If you learn some phrases and try to ‘fit’ them into your speaking or writing to get a higher score without knowing them properly, it may sound unnatural and you may make mistakes, which will be noticed by the examiner.
The aim of these pages is to show you how they can be used in an ‘IELTS context’ so the words have been placed in answers to IELTS type speaking questions. There are more formal types of phrasal verbs, but the focus here is on informal ones.
After every 10 words there are phrasal verb exercises to test your knowledge of the words.
But to emphasise again, the words can change according to tense and context, so as you learn them do some internet research on each one to see how it can vary.
|hang out||spend time relaxing (informal)|
|catch up with||Meet someone after a period of time and find out what they have been doing|
|cut down/back on||Reduce|
|give (something) up||Quit / stop doing it|
|cut out||Stop eating something (permanently or for a long time)|
|get along/on||Like each other|
|fall out||Argue and be on bad terms with someone|
|clean up||Tidy / Clean|
|come across||Find something unexpectedly|
How well do you know the 10 words?
In this phrasal verb quiz, you have three choices to fill the gap. Choose the right word or the right word form if it is the same word.
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