November 6, 2009
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KISS Level 2.1.5 - Phrasal Verbs 
(Preposition? Adverb? Or Part of the Verb?)

Notes for Teachers

      “Phrasal verbs” is used by some grammarians to discuss words that look like prepositions after some verbs: 

“Come on,” “Look at,” “Look for,” “Run up”
As with expletives and objective complements, most lovers of grammar (and those who write the textbooks) enjoy themselves in discussions of “phrasal verbs,” which other grammarians refer to as verbs + particles. The linguists have still other names for the same phenomenon. That these verbs present few problems to students, and that these terms simply add to the confusion of the average student, does not seem to concern the grammarians or linguists. 
     Applying the principles of alternative explanations and of keeping things simple, KISS uses the term “phrasal verb” primarily for teachers and parents so that we have a word to label the question. Students can simply 1) consider the “preposition” to be part of the verb, or 2) consider it to be an adverb, or 3) consider it to be a preposition. In most cases, which of these three options is best can be determined by relying on the meaning of the words being examined. In cases such as “Come on,” for example, some students will consider the “on” as part of the verb since “Come on” can be interpreted as meaning “Continue.” Other students will prefer to view this “on” as an adverb modifying “Come.” Since linguists don’t agree, I would accept either explanation. 
     Verbs such as “look at” and “look for” are, again, best analyzed in terms of their meaning. In a case such as “look at the house,” I would accept either “look” as the verb and “at the house” as a prepositional phrase, or “look at” as the verb (substitutable by “see” or “note”) and “house” as the direct object. The combination “look for” is probably more variable in meaning. In “Look for him” in the sense of “Find him,” “for” would best be analyzed as part of the verb. But if it meant “Look for his sake,” then “for his sake” would be more meaningfully explained as a prepositional phrase, simply because it functions as an adverb indicating why one should look. 
     Note again that the instructional material does not use the term “phrasal verbs.” The term is important to us as teachers, so we can know which problem we are discussing. The students’ objective, however, is to know how to explain these “prepositions” when they find them in the sentences that they are trying to analyze. You can, of course, use the term in working with students, and you can even expect students to remember what it means, but also remember that the primary problem in the teaching of grammar is the confusion that results from the vast amount of confusing terminology. Thus, the question is, will the knowledge of the term itself help or hurt your students?
Suggested Directions for Analytical Exercises
1. Place parentheses ( ) around each prepositional phrase.
2. Underline every finite verb twice, its subject(s) once, and label any complements (“PA,” “PN,” “IO,” or “DO”).
Probable Time Required
     In the third grade workbook, where this concept is introduced, only three exercises focus on it. For students who already have a solid command of S/V/C patterns, this may be sufficient. I would, however, expect many students to continue to be confused. Fortunately, the confusion here is not serious--students will recognize the basic verb (so they will be able to go on to clauses), and the cumulative nature of KISS will eventually clear up their questions.
Preposition, Adverb, or Part of the Verb? (Phrasal Verbs)
Instructional Material
From the KISS Beatrix Potter Collection
Ex # 6 from The Tale of Benjamin Bunny AK ToC -
Ex # 9 from The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies AK ToC G3
Ex # 7 from The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck AK ToC G3
Ex # 1 from The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan AK ToC -
Ex # 2 from The Tale of the Pie and the Patty-Pan AK " -
Revise from the above "Pie and Patty-Pan"     IB2
Ex # 16 from The Tale of Samuel Whiskers AK ToC G3
10 From the above minus "Pie"     IB2
From Vredenburg's My Book of Favorite Fairy Tales AK  ToC G4; IB3
From the Writing of a Fourth Grade Student (# 1) AK ToC G4; IB4
From the Writing of a Fourth Grade Student (#2) AK ToC G4
From the Writing of a Sixth Grade Student AK ToC G6
From Lassie, Come Home, by Eric Knight AK ToC G6
From Heidi by Johanna Spyri AK ToC G6