“Should I learn more phrasal verbs?”
A student asked me this question during a live training Thursday.
My answer: What’s a phrasal verb?
Like Big Foot, ghosts and Santa Claus, phrasal verbs don’t exist.
It’s just a story English teachers invented to scare students.
I’ll explain in a minute, but first…
I’m back on the family farm this month.
Here’s the old barn Saturday afternoon:
And here it is again twenty-four hours later:
I came home for Christmas.
Now the lights and decorations are back in their boxes and stored in the attic.
And soon I shall return to my second home, Europe.
But first, I must pack.
I’m a light packer; that means I only bring what I need.
But this time it’s going to be a bit of a challenge because I’ll have to pack for three seasons: winter, spring and summer.
My scarf will be next to my sunglasses.
But what about my running shoes?
Should I bring them?
I used to enjoy running along the Vltava River during the spring and summer.
But I haven’t run in a long time…
So do I pack the shoes just in case?
Just to be prepared?
But if I pack too much, I’ll need an extra bag and the airline will charge me more money.
No, I think I’ll leave them here.
And if I decide to start running again, I’ll buy some shoes in Prague.
That makes sense, doesn’t it?
And you should do the same with your vocabulary.
HOW TO BE A LIGHT PACKER WITH YOUR ENGLISH
When you’re learning a new language there are words you know you’re going to need.
These are called “high-frequency words.”
In English, about 2,000 words are in 80% of all sentences.
So it makes sense to get a list of those words and learn them.
But when you learn a list of phrasal verbs, you’re packing “just in case.”
And like the extra bag on the airplane, you pay a price for over-packing.
It takes time.
And you’ll probably forget them anyway.
If you never say the words “phrasal verb” for the rest of your life you’ll be fine.
Here’s a simpler way to think about it.
TWO KINDS OF WORDS
There are only two types of words.
There are words you know and there are words you don’t know.
Ah, but then there are two types of words you don’t know.
There are words you need and words you will probably never need.
Currently, I’m reading a biography on John D. Rockefeller.
It’s a good book, but the author likes to show off his big vocabulary.
Last night I read this word: “panegyrical.”
I had no idea what it meant.
That was the first time I had ever seen it.
And it will probably be my last.
So do you think that’s a good word to learn?
Now what about this: You’re watching “Friends” and Ross keeps talking about showing off his new girlfriend.
You don’t know what “show off” means.
Do you think this might be a useful expression to learn?
Do English daily.
And when you discover a word that 1. you don’t know, and 2. is used often, learn it.
And then use it right away.
That’s how you pack light for English.