MET workshop: grammar pathway minisession

Phrasal verbs: “Bring ’em on!”


Facilitator: John Linnegar

English abounds with phrasal verbs, which function to convey either logical/literal (Joe put the book down) or idiomatic meaning (Let’s put it down to experience). These composites derive primarily from verbs of movement or action and adverbial or prepositional particles of direction and location. For example:
eat – eat in, eat out, eat up (finish)
move – move in, move on, move over, move up (in the world)
take – take in, take off, take on, take under (one’s wing)

They contribute, usually subtly, to the richness of the language and carry meanings – sometimes informal, colloquial, emotive or slangy – different from their root verb forms, which is possibly why they are also notorious for befuddling both writers and editors or revisers. Why, for instance, do we sometimes place the object before the particle (as above) and sometimes after it (Joe put down the book)? And in a particular instance of usage, why do we write “The swimmer dived into the pool” but “The operator logged in to the program”?

The answers to these and related phrasal verb conundrums will be provided during this minisession, in which participants will learn by doing a number of exercises that help to illustrate current usage.

About the facilitator: John Linnegar is something of a grammar geek, having had the best of English teachers at school at a time when grammar was well taught. A former schoolteacher (English and History), John has been improving authors’ texts since 1979. He has written and published Engleish, Our Engleish: Common Errors in South African English and How to Resolve Them (2013), Text Editing (2012) and, more recently, Grammar, Punctuation and All That Jazz ... (with Ken McGillivray, 2019). He is a co-author of Oxford English Grammar: The Advanced Guide (2015) and contributes a regular column on grammar and punctuation to the quarterly newsletter of the Professional Editors’ Guild. He considers himself a descriptivist more than a prescriptivist in matters grammatical, being inclined to reflect what the authorities* consider to be preferred current English usage.
 

* John Kahn The Right Word at the Right Time (Reader’s Digest, London 1985); Tom McArthur (ed) The Oxford Companion to the English Language (OUP 1992); David Crystal The Fight for English (OUP 2007); Elizabeth Manning Murphy Working Words (Canberra Society of Editors 2011); Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers (6th ed, John Wiley & Sons Australia 2011); Bryan A Garner Garner’s Modern English Usage (OUP 2016).