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Phrasal Verbs, Phrasal Nouns, and Speaking

Phrasal Verbs, Phrasal Nouns, and Speaking
Phrasal Verbs, Phrasal Nouns, and Speaking
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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a classic American story.

It tells the sad tale of a mysterious rich man, Jay Gatsby, who loves Daisy Buchanan, a married woman.

The Great Gatsby can teach you many lessons about the English language. Its many film versions can, too.

Let's listen to a few words from the 2013 version of the Great Gatsby.

“All the bright, precious things fade so fast – and they don’t come back.”

The last two words you heard are a phrasal verb, and that is what will be the subject of today’s report.

We will explain a little more about phrasal verbs, phrasal nouns, and speaking.

Let’s explore a few definitions and examples.

Phrasal verbs and “phrasal nouns”

Phrasal verbs have two or more words. These words are usually a verb along with one or more short words such as in, on, out or back.

Phrasal verbs have an idiomatic meaning – in other words, they have a meaning that is different from what the individual words might suggest.

In The Great Gatsby, the phrasal verb come back means to return to a former good condition.

Phrasal verbs can have a noun form, too. Let's call these “phrasal nouns.”

Here is an example.

Imagine you hear a person describe what they did yesterday. They might say:

I worked out yesterday.

Work out is a phrasal verb. It means to exercise. How would the statement change if the speaker used a phrasal noun instead?

I had a good workout yesterday.

Let’s listen to the two examples again.

I worked out yesterday.

I had a good workout yesterday.

Did you notice a difference?

In the statement with the phrasal verb, the speaker stressed the second word of the phrasal verb – the word out.

In the phrasal noun example, the speaker stressed the first part of the word - work.

Listen again:

worked out


Word stress in the Great Gatsby

Think back to the beautiful words from The Great Gatsby.

“All the bright, precious things fade so fast – and they don’t come back.”

Did you hear how the speaker said the phrasal verb come back?

She put stress on the word back.

Imagine how the sentence might change if the speaker used a phrasal noun instead.

“All the bright, precious things fade so fast – and they don’t make a comeback.”

While this line is not as strong as the line that was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it does give you an idea of how different phrasal verbs and phrasal nouns sound.

Closing thoughts

The next time you are watching films or speaking with an American, try to listen for how they say phrasal verbs and phrasal nouns. Then try to stress the words in the way that they do. With time, and with practice, your speaking will become clearer to native speakers.

We hope that you will come back to us for future Everyday Grammar stories. Or perhaps we should say that that Everyday Grammar will make a comeback?

I’m John Russell.

And I’m Ashley Thompson.

John Russell wrote this story for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.


Words in This Story

tale –n. a story that could either be about imaginary events, false events or someone’s own experience

bright -- adj. having a very light and strong color; happy and lively; showing intelligence; providing a reason for hope

precious -- adj. very valuable or important : too valuable or important to be wasted or used carelessly

fade – v. to become less bright : to lose color; to disappear gradually

stress – v. greater loudness or force given to a syllable of a word in speech or to a beat in music

practice – n. the activity of doing something again and again in order to become better at it