Linguistic introspection: those unpredictable phrasal verbs in English

Lily XL8

Though a professional linguist and native English speaker, I’m usually not big on teaching English to classes of students (to my friends is another matter :D). But one thing that’s come to my attention recently is the phenomenon of phrasal verbs and their abundance in English.

In layman’s terms, a phrasal verb takes the form of verb + preposition to form a new verb with its own unique meaning. It can be compared to verb prefixes in other Germanic languages that are shifted to the end of the sentence when conjugated — for example, “a(a)nmelden” — “meld dich/je a(a)n” in German and Dutch is equivalent to “sign up” in English. And many Slavic languages, like my Russian, also have verb prefixes, although these do not shift position like they do in the Germanic languages.

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