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The Big, Scary Enemy of International Growth

Or, the art to expressing actions and orders in English online.

Most of us had fairly basic grammar lessons at school.

If you’re like me, you probably only really remembered the differences between verb, noun and adjective until you started to learn a foreign language (if that happened!).

It took me a while to get my head round adverbs of place, action and time, and then remembering how to recognise the difference between an adjective and an adverb. Then we’ve got articles, subject and object pronouns, and the list goes on.

Today I want to share some information with you about phrasal verbs – a big, scary enemy of international growth!

I ran an event yesterday and what really surprised me was how many of the participants were focused on developing their language skills as they grow their businesses.

We really need to know how to use our words more effectively, and the different types of verbs, or action words, that we have in English.

So, let's get down to business

When we combine a regular verb with a preposition, we convert that verb into what we call a ‘phrasal verb’.

Take for example the verb ‘give’.

If I give you a present, we understand that ‘give’ means to offer or to transfer something from one person to another.

If I combine ‘give’ with prepositions, I can create new meanings:

  • He’s working hard to give up smoking (to stop)

  • She finally gave in and let the children eat some chocolate (to surrender)

This happens in English all the time, and we see these combinations with hundreds (if not thousands) of verbs. Language students can even buy whole dictionaries just of Phrasal Verbs!

Here are a few more examples of how the main meaning of the verb changes once we add the prepositions in to help you get to grips with this idea.


They dropped the glass and it broke (to separate into smaller pieces or to stop working)

  • The kids break up from school on Friday (the holiday starts)

  • We had to break up a fight between the men at the bar (to stop)

  • The thieves broke into the shop at midnight (to force entry)


I put the book on the table (to place, to position)

  • She puts up with a lot of stress at work, and it’s not healthy (to tolerate)

  • We’ll need to put off the event because of the restrictions (to postpone)

As you can see, some phrasal verbs even combine with 2 prepositions (put up with) or have multiple meanings (break up).

We use phrasal verbs all day, every day.

They are really common in both spoken and written language and cause huge amounts of trouble to people learning the English language. They are a construct that only exists in English! Other languages don’t have them. Imagine having to learn a new word, but then a whole host of variations and acceptions to that meaning depending on the context in which we use it – it’s really tough!

The good news is that more often than not, we can replace the 2-part verb, or phrasal verb, with just one.

  • Sign up for the event now – Register for the event now

  • Stand up for what you believe in – Support what you believe in

  • Take part in our next meeting – Participate in our next meeting


Don’t confuse phrasal verbs with normal verbs that work with a preposition. For example: I’m going to the shop.

We have go + preposition (to) BUT the main verb still maintains its neutral meaning and the preposition also works with its neutral meaning.

  • I’m walking along the beach

  • We’re sitting by the park entrance

  • He’s looking up at the stars (whereas 'he looks up to his boss' means 'he admires his boss'!)

My suggestion?

Review your content and make every effort to replace phrasal verbs when you know that content is going to be seen by an international audience.

If we’re not offering content in the native tongue, the least we can do is work hard to ensure that the content we create and publish is as accessible as possible. And it’s easy to do!


Never fear, help is here!

Do you want to ask me questions about this or have me train your team in how they can create content in International English?

Email me now: kellie@onno.training

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