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TED Talks Teach You About Phrasal Verbs

TED Talks Teach You About Phrasal Verbs
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TED Talk videos are popular in the United States and other countries. These videos explore issues in science, technology, education and other subjects. They can also be a useful tool for learning English.

Today on Everyday Grammar, we will tell how TED Talks can teach you about some common phrasal verbs, including three with the word hang. They are hang up, hang on and hang out.

We will also explain how you can predict the general meaning of a phrasal verb, even if you do not know its exact definition.

But first, let's look a little more closely at phrasal verbs and how they are used.

What are phrasal verbs?

Phrasal verbs are groups of words that have a verb and one or more short words. When combined, the words have an idiomatic meaning. In other words, phrasal verbs have a meaning that is different from what you might expect.

Consider the phrasal verb take out. It has the verb take and the word out. Together, they mean to remove someone or something from something else. For example, you can take out some money from your pocket.

A phrasal verb can have several meanings. For example, take out can also mean that you get financial help, as in the statement “I want to start a business, but I don’t have enough money. So, I’m taking out a loan.”

There are thousands of phrasal verbs. The good news is that you do not need to learn all of them.

Your time is better spent learning the most common phrasal verbs.

Mélodie Garnier and Norbert Schmitt are language experts. They made a list of the most common phrasal verbs and their most common meanings.

Of the 150 most common phrasal verbs, three involve the verb hang. Hang means to connect or place something so that it is held up without support from below. But as you know now, phrasal verbs have different meanings than what the verb by itself suggests.

The three most common phrasal verbs with hang are hang up, hang on and hang out.

Even if you do not know what each of these phrasal verbs means, you will learn how to predict what they could mean.

Let us explore each phrasal verb by listening to TED Talks. You will hear part of a TED Talk and have time to think about what the phrasal verb means. Then you will hear the answer.

#1 Hang up

In our first example, futurist and businessman Juan Enriquez talks about gene editing tools such as CRISPR. While talking about the past, when a long-distance telephone call cost a lot of money, Enriquez uses our first phrasal verb: hang up.

Because, of course, you used to get interrupted by operators who’d tell you, “Long distance calling. Do you want to hang up?” And now we think nothing of calling all over the world.

Can you tell what Enriquez meant when he said hang up?

Enriquez gives you an example of the most common meaning of hang up: to end or finish a phone call. You can tell that long distance calls must have cost a lot years ago because he said, ”And now we think nothing of calling all over the world.”

#2 Hang on

In our second TED Talk, researcher Max Tegmark talks about the threats and opportunities of artificial intelligence, or AI. Listen to how he uses our second phrasal verb, hang on.

We could end up in a fantastic future where everybody’s better off: the poor are richer, the rich are richer, everybody is healthy and free to live out their dreams. Now, hang on. Do you folks want the future that’s politically right or left?

Could you tell what Tegmark meant when he used the phrasal verb hang on?

In this case, hang on means wait for a short time. Tegmark is asking the crowd to think about what he just said. He makes several statements, then says “hang on,” then asks a question. You can tell from the sound of his voice that he wants everyone to wait and think.

#3 Hang out

In our third and final TED Talk, we hear from Luis H. Zayas, head of the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. Here he explores how difficult experiences can affect a child’s brain. Listen to how he uses hang out.

Afterwards, after school, they [children] go home and they ride bikes, hang out with friends, do homework and explore the world – all the essentials for child development.

Can you tell what Zayas meant when he said hang out?

In this case, hang out means having fun. Terms like “ride bikes” and “with friends” and “explore the world” suggest that hanging out means having fun.

Closing thoughts

The point of this report was to teach you two things. We talked about the meaning of three common phrasal verbs. But we also talked about how to start thinking about new phrasal verbs.

You can use these ideas when you listen to radio broadcasts, watch films or talk to English speakers. Although phrasal verbs can be difficult, the learning process will be much easier if you spend your time wisely.

I'm John Russell.

And I'm Ashley Thompson.

John Russell wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

pocket – n. an area in clothing used for carrying small objects

interrupt — v. to ask questions or say things while another person is speaking; to do or say something that causes someone to stop speaking

opportunity – n. a chance to do something

artificial intelligence – n. a computer systems able to perform work that normally requires human intelligence

fantastic – adj. extremely good

bike – n. short for bicycle a vehicle powered by two wheels

essential – n. something that is important or necessary