If you spend any time amongst English language students you might hear them commenting on how they have a terrible time, trying to cope with English phrasal verbs. As a native you don’t understand why they have this problem, nor even know what they on earth these little creatures might be. Take a normal verb, get, put, give for example and just think of how many variations with completely different meanings they have.
The main understanding of the verb examples given , get– is to receive, put– is to place and item in a place and give– to pass on. If we used get in it means to enter; put up with– to tolerate; and give up– it means to surrender. The problem for those students is that while they look similar to the original verb, you can’t always assume that you will find a logical meaning for each one. So you have to learn them one by one, increasing the amount of time you have to study.
It’s not so hard for all students. People from countries who speak Germanic languages, those from Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Germany etc will have less problems with the idea. Given that the original base of English is Germanic their languages are riddled with similar examples. Many of the English examples might be new to them, but at least they are prepared for the difficulty. Many of these countries also start learning English from a young age, when you are not concerned at how long it will take you to learn the language.
But from these exact languages you can find the culprits of the dilemma. English itself originally comes from an area of Germany roughly centred around the northern city of Hamburg. Then came a huge wave of Norse settlers, while 300 years of Norman French spoken as the language of government started to cure English of the problem, the Norse settlers became the next influence bringing back the good old phrasal verb.
Latin speakers are some that find the going tough. French and Latin has heavily influenced the English language , and the similarities of shared vocabulary is quite useful. Latin words used in English are usually confined to educated speakers and office documents, which are used for a more precise defintions. Phrasal verbs are most commonly used in colloquial talk, when we are relaxed and on the streets.
So as not to keep you in the dark for much longer, Wikipedia have come a good explanation of what they are:
a verb and a particle and/or a preposition co-occur forming a single semantic unit. This semantic unit cannot be understood based upon the meanings of the individual parts in isolation, but rather it must be taken as a whole. In other words, the meaning is non-compositional and thus unpredictable. Phrasal verbs that include a preposition are known as prepositional verbs and phrasal verbs that include a particle are also known as particle verbs.
This is only a small part of the explanation to clarify the complicated situation from Wikipedia- Phrasal Verbs, so to view it in entirety click the link. The keywords that describe a students hardship are can’t be understood and unpredictable.
But it’s not all stormy weather out there on the language front. With time and persistance, one day you’ll think about the stress they have put you through only to think and smaile that you have mastered the difficult. And then if you are a Latin speaker you might realise that some of your refelxive verbs are actually just as recalcitrant as those phrasal verbs. Makes you think what those students of your language might be going through.