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Grammar and Libraries

Everyday Grammar - Library phrases
Everyday Grammar - Library phrases
Grammar and Libraries
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Imagine you are at a library – a place where books, movies, and other publications are available to borrow.

What kinds of terms and structures would you need to know in order to express yourself well at a library?

In today’s Everyday Grammar, we will explore one possible answer to that question: phrasal verbs.


Phrasal verbs are groups of words made up of a verb and another short word or words. Together, these groups of words mean something different from what the individual words suggest. As a result, you can think of phrasal verbs as kinds of special expressions.

We will now explore three phrasal verbs that connect to the library: look up, look for, and check out.

Look up

Our first phrasal verb is “look up.” “Look up” means to search for something in a reference book, publication, or on the internet.

We often use a noun or noun phrase after “look up.” For example, you might say:

I need to look up an article.


I need to look up a news story.


I need to look up that word in the dictionary.

Look for

Our second phrasal verb is “look for.” “Look for” means to try to find something or to search for something. “Look for” is often followed by a noun or noun phrase.

You might look for general things or specific things.

For example, if you wanted to find science fiction books at the library, you could say:

I am looking for science fiction books.

If you wanted to find an exact book, you might say something like this:

I am looking for “Dune” by Frank Herbert.

Check out

Our third phrasal verb is “check out.” “Check out” means to borrow something from a library.

So, you might say:

I went to the library to check out new books.


I checked out a book from the library.


So, we have our three phrasal verbs for the library: look up, look for, and check out.

We can think of these phrasal verbs as taking place in steps. Perhaps look up is step one, look for is step two, and check out is step three.

For example, you might look up book reviews. After you read a book review that covers an interesting book, you might look for the book itself. After you find the book, you might check out the book.


Let’s take some time to work with these ideas. Imagine you have a book that you want to borrow from the library. How can you ask to borrow it? Use the phrasal verb “check out. “

Pause the audio to consider your answer.

Here is one answer:

Can I check out this book?

Closing thoughts

In today’s report, we explored some useful phrasal verbs for the library. There are other phrasal verbs for the library, but the three we explored today are probably the most common ones you will find.

I’m John Russell.

John Russell wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

reference – adj. used to find information about something

article – n. a piece of writing other than fiction or poetry that forms an independent part of a publication (as a magazine)

fiction – n. something told or written that is not fact

dictionary – n. a kind of reference book that has words listed in alphabetical order and that gives information about the words' meanings

review – n. a critical evaluation (as of a book or play)