KISS Level 2.1.5 - Phrasal Verbs
(Preposition? Adverb? Or Part
of the Verb?)
Notes for Teachers
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.