Ace the Phrasal Verbs Topic for PSLE English Success!

A page in the dictionary shows a close view for the text Phrasal verb along with its meaning. The text Phrasal verb is highlighted in blue.

The PSLE English exam is a national exam that all Singaporean students take at the end of their primary learning years. It tests the student’s ability in communication, argument, comprehension, writing, and critical listening in two parts: PSLE Paper 1 English and Paper 2 English. Questions are in the form of MCQs, OEQs, and contextual writing tasks.

In this article, let’s discuss the importance of phrasal verbs in PSLE English and how to prepare for this topic.

The Vocabulary section of Paper 2 consists of MCQs in three categories:

1. Choice of the right word for the context – similar words are given, and students must identify the differences and choose correctly.
2. Knowledge of Phrasal Verbs
3. Familiarity with common idioms in English

You will find that phrasal verbs are an important topic to practise and will need to be used throughout all question types and tasks, including Editing, Grammar Cloze passage, Comprehension Cloze passage, etc., in Paper 2. In this discussion, let’s concentrate on the ‘knowledge of phrasal verbs’ category.

But first, a little recap is in order.

PSLE English Preps: An Overview of Phrasal Verbs

1. What are phrasal verbs?

A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb (e.g. break) and another word, like an adverb (example, up) or preposition (example, in). In some cases, a phrasal verb can combine an adverb and a preposition with a verb (example, got away with).

The meaning of the verb changes when it is used in a phrasal verb. For example, ‘got’, the past tense of ‘get’, has the meaning of ‘obtaining, earning, or buying something’ in the past, but the phrasal verb ‘get away with’ has the meaning of ‘escaping punishment for doing something wrong.’

2. What are the different types of Phrasal Verbs?

Phrasal verbs are of four types.

On the first level, phrasal verbs in the English language can be transitive or intransitive.

An intransitive phrasal verb is not dependent on an object for meaning.
For example, I wake up at 6:30 am every day.

A transitive phrasal verb, on the other hand, needs an object to make complete sense.
For example, Please fill out this form for registrations.

A group of students having pencils in their hands are pointing to the phrasal verbs mentioned in a white background poster.

Separable phrasal verbs are those transitive phrasal verbs that can be separated with a direct object in between.
For example, Please turn the volume down.

Inseparable phrasal verbs will not give the same meaning if they are split up by adding an object in between.
For example, I’ll look after your cat this weekend.

This topic can be of great importance for a student appearing for PSLE English. Their preparation will need to address this topic either explicitly through topic study or implicitly through reading and comprehension. The only way to do well in this question type is to thoroughly understand the topic and be familiar with the most common types of phrasal verbs.

A Run-down of Commonly Used Phrasal Verbs

Our advice to students is to maintain and study-record to detail common phrasal verbs, their meanings, and an example sentence. It is important to note that phrasal verbs may mean different things in different contexts. Here is a list of the most common phrasal verbs in the English language:

Sl.No
Phrasal Verb
Usage

1.break outWhen I heard my mother open the door, I broke out (nervous) into a cold sweat.
A red rash broke out (developed/formed) on Sue’s nose when she smelled the flower.
2.back awayThe hunter slowly backed away (retreated) from the bear when he ran out of bullets.
3.broke downMy grandmother broke down (cried) inconsolably on hearing about her brother’s passing.
We missed the first-hour subject in class when the bus broke down (stopped working).
4.add up toMother was shocked to see how much our groceries added up to (total amount).
5.back upHis wife backed him up (supported) in his decision to quit and look for a better opportunity.
Sofie accidentally backed up (moved in reverse) too fast in her car and banged into a tree.
6.ask aroundMy brother asked around (made enquiries), but nobody had heard of the cafe I wanted to visit.
7.ask outLeo told his mom that he would ask Judy out (invite) to dinner the following week.
8.turn downRobert turned down (refused) the job offer when they didn’t agree to his request.
9.wear outMax was worn out (very tired) after the exciting trip to the park.
10.put upThe salesgirl refused to put up with (tolerate) the customer’s rude behaviour and quit the job.
11.pass outSeveral of our farm animals passed out (fainted) due to the scorching heat.
12.look forward toSally is looking forward to (eagerly anticipating) her trip to an exotic country with her family.
13.get overAlize has still not gotten over (put it behind her) the disappointing results of her recent examinations.
14.calm downMr Seng took a few minutes to calm down (steady himself) and control his anger.
15.blow upThe hooligans blew up the red car, but thankfully no one was hurt.

As non-native speakers of English, phrasal verbs can be a challenging topic to handle. In fact, some mistakes have been identified as commonly made by students learning this topic. Let’s now discuss a few of these commonly made mistakes.

Also Read : Exploring “Deep Practice” & How it Influences Student Learning

Common Mistakes in Phrasal Verb Usage in PSLE English

Here are a few commonly made mistakes to look out for.

  • Pronoun use: The rule is simple for using pronouns (like I, you, him, it, etc.) with phrasal verbs: When pronouns become the object of a phrasal verb, they fit in between the particle and verb.
    For example, The detective brought him in for questioning.
  • The use of -ing after the phrasal verb: These can be a little confusing, but for continuous tense, remember to add -ing to the verb after the phrasal verb.
    For example, They’re looking forward to meeting you soon.
  • The ‘to continue’ phrasal verbs: Groups of verbs that mean ‘to continue’ are also followed by an -ing verb.
    For example: After a lovely lunch, we carried on shopping.
  • Follow-up with an infinitive: Look into phrasal verbs that need to be followed by a ‘to’ infinitive verb.
    For example, She turned out to be my most trusted friend.

These common mistakes will be useful information to remember so that students can avoid them in exams.

Tackling Phrasal Verb Questions in PSLE English

In this final section, let’s take a look at how phrasal verb questions need to be handled. Phrasal verb questions in PSLE can get quite tricky. Sometimes the same verb will be used in all the answer options, and only the other elements will be changed. How will you tackle such a question?

  • Your first step to tackling this question should be to read the entire question carefully. Do this until you have understood the question thoroughly.
  • Next, use clues in the context given to eliminate the wrong options and choose the one that best fits.

Concluding thoughts

English can only be mastered as a language if you have a strong foundation in the subject. The steps discussed above will only work if the student is aware of phrasal-verbs meanings and usage. Use the table in this article and add to it during your studies to master this topic.

For customized learning plans that will address all the topics you need to strengthen, use the Studysmart app from Singapore and ace your PSLE exams.

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