Saturday, June 18, 2011

Phrasal Verbs or, Showing how smart you are

English has many multi-part verbs (e.g. "take in", "take out", "take up", "take down"). Apparently, these phrasal verbs are one of the more unusual features of the English language. I'm told, for instance, that English-as-a-second-language learners have to struggle with these forms. What makes it worse is that we tend to convert these phrasal verbs into nouns or modifiers--food I that I "take out" becomes "takeout" food, for instance; I "lay out" the page to generate the page's "layout."

Which leads to people confusing the verb form with the noun form. Just yesterday, I saw "layout" used as a verb, for instance (but, of course, if enough people make this error often enough, "layout" will become a verb). Part of the issue is that this is an error that's only possible to spot when written down--the problem doesn't exist in spoken English.

So phrasal verbs provide a great opportunity for you to show how smart you are. Spotting and commenting on this error shows that you are much more knowledgeable about the English language than your friends are (assuming you have any*).

Reading or read

*Winston Churchill reference

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