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IELTS Speaking Key Tips: Phrasal verbs

Important speaking tips for your IELTS preparation course.

To ace your IELTS Speaking exam, you should use a mix of casual and sophisticated language. In your IELTS coaching course at English Key Melbourne, we teach many important speaking skills, including how to use phrasal verbs.

What are phrasal verbs?

Phrasal verbs are a combination of a verb + preposition, so they are usually two-word expressions (sometimes more). For example:

As you can see, this phrasal verb (GET UP) has a different meaning from just the verb “GET”.

Special meanings

The meaning of a phrasal verb is often very different from the original verb:

  1. She’s looking after the children. (She is taking care of the children.)

  2. They’ve put off the meeting. (They’ve postponed the meeting.)

  3. Greg’s taken up golf. (Greg’s started playing golf.)

  4. I can’t put up with my neighbours any longer. (I can’t tolerate my neighbours any longer.)

Think of the many different meanings for the phrasal verbs using “look”:

To look up = to research

To look over = to inspect something quickly

To look into = to investigate

To look forward to = to eagerly anticipate something (e.g. an event, seeing someone)

To look down on = to regard someone with a feeling of superiority

To look up to = to admire and respect someone

There are so many phrasal verbs in English! And native speakers use them all the time. That’s why it’s so good to use them in your test – you want to sound like a native speaker. For an extensive list of phrasal verbs and definitions, check out this ultimate guide to phrasal verbs.

Watch what you say

Like with everything in your speaking exam, make sure what you say is appropriate in the context. There are some phrasal verbs that are quite informal or even rude, so you must be careful.

For example, you could say:

I told him to shut up. (rude)

“shut up” is a phrasal verb that means “be quiet; however it can be quite rude. To be more polite, or at least less rude, you can instead say:

I told him to be quiet. (more polite)

I told him to stop talking. (more polite)

For a list of more phrasal verbs (including notes on which are rude or slang) check out this list of 100 phrasal verbs used as commands.

How do I remember?

Like anything, phrasal verbs get easier to remember the more you use them. So learn a few every week (or every day) and try them out in your daily conversations. If you’re not sure how to use a phrasal verb correctly, ask one of our knowledgeable teachers at English Key, or in one of your IELTS classes in Melbourne.

I want to learn more!

To learn more phrasal verbs, check out these websites for lists and online practice:

20 English Phrasal Verbs for Communication

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