In past Everyday Grammar programs, we have told you about phrasal verbs. A phrasal verb is a group of words that act as a verb. It is made from a verb and a preposition, adverb or both.
In the 1957 calypso song “Angelique-O,” American singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte sings about colonization:
Your mama got to take you back
Give you all the things you lack
He uses the phrasal verb take back in the line: Your mama got to take you back. In this line, the verb means “to accept or receive someone or something again.”
Phrasal verbs make up a large part of everyday spoken and written English. This means they can easily be found in news, music, film and so many other places.
On today’s program, we will talk about phrasal verbs that include the word take – one of the most widely used verbs in English. There are more than a dozen phrasal verbs with take – and some of them have more than one meaning.
Let’s start by taking another look at take back. Like some other phrasal verbs, take back has many meanings. We will not learn all of them today.
Here is the line again from “Angelique-O:” Your mama got to take you back.
Notice that the words take and back are separated by the object pronoun “you.” Some phrasal verbs are separable – meaning they can be separated by the object. But some are not. The verb take back is separable.
In addition, with some phrasal verbs, such as take back, you always separate them when using the object pronouns me, you, her, him and it. For example, we could not say: Your mama got to take back you. The “you” must go between “take” and “back.”
Now, let’s move to take after. This is a quick and easy one, because it has just one meaning: to look like or be like someone, especially a parent or other family member. Listen to an example:
Everyone tells me that I take after my grandmother. But, I don’t think we are that much alike.
Take after is not separable. You cannot say, for example, “I take my grandmother after.”
Our next verb is take over. One of its meanings is “to take control of something.”
Listen to pop singer Kelly Rowland sing about love taking control of a person in the song “When Love Takes Over.”*
When love takes over yeah
You know you can't deny
When love takes over yeah
Because something's here tonight
Take over is separable. In the song, the line implies that love is taking over you. Here’s how you might say those: "When love takes you over" or "When love takes over you."
Like many phrasal verbs, take over can also function as noun. When this happens, it becomes one word. For instance, you could say, “The company takeover happened last August.”
Now, let’s talk about take off. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it has 10 meanings. For this program, we will look at two of them.
One meaning is useful when traveling. It means “to begin to fly.” For this meaning, the verb is inseparable. For example, in an airplane, you might hear this:
Be sure your seat belts are fastened. We will be taking off in a few minutes.
“Take off” can also act as a noun. When this happens, it also becomes one word. For example, you might hear the pilot say, “Flight attendants, prepare for takeoff.”
Another meaning of take off is “to remove something.” For this meaning, English speakers actually use take off far more often than the verb remove.
In a song by American hip hop group Outkast and singer Norah Jones, Jones tells her partner to be his true self instead of trying to be “cool”:
Baby, take off your cool
I wanna see you, I wanna see you
Because this meaning of take off is separable, the line could have also been said this way: “Baby take your cool off.”
Our last verb for today is take out. One meaning of this verb is “to go with someone to an event, restaurant or some other place or activity and pay for the bill.”
The words take and out are usually separated for this meaning. For example: "My sister took me out for dinner for my birthday."
This usage of take out can also mean that two people who are romantically interested in each other are going out somewhere.
Listen: "He took me out to a wine festival. We had an amazing time!"
Takeout, as one word, is the noun form. It means food that you buy from a restaurant and take home to eat.
What can you do?
There are hundreds of English phrasal verbs. So, it's not very effective to try to memorize all of them from a long list.
But there are methods you can use.
Music is one of the best ways to learn a language. If you want to try to learn phrasal verbs through music, first decide which ones you’d like to learn. Then, search for them on a music lyrics website, such as Lyrics.com. Next, choose and listen to the songs.
Another method is to write a short story using some of the verbs you want to remember. For example, “My father is a great cook. He says I take after him because everybody loves my food. So, he asked me take over the family restaurant. I do like cooking. But, I prefer when my family takes me out to eat.”
Afterward, you can record your story on your mobile phone and listen to it as often as you like.
Join us again soon for more phrasal verbs.
I’m Alice Bryant.
Alice Bryant wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
What are some ways that you can use these phrasal verbs in your life? Write to us in the Comments section using the verbs you just learned! And visit our Facebook page.
*Song by DJ Guetta featuring Kelly Rowland
Words in This Story
calypso – n. a lively musical style from the West Indies that usually has humorous lyrics concerning current topics, such as politics
dozen – n. a group of 12 people or things
imply – v. to express (something) in an indirect way
seat belt – n. a strap on a vehicle's seat that holds a person in the seat if there is an accident
fasten – v. to put something in a position or location in such a way that it will not move
lyrics – n. the words of a song