Hi this is Peter from the Smiths School of English in Yamashina. I’d like to take a look at phrasal verbs, often referred to as two-part verbs. These comprise of a verb and a particle, for example turn up, put down, and look over. The two words form a single set and, depending on context, can often have two or sometimes more meanings. We mainly use phrasal verbs in conversation, or casual written English, instead of a longer, formal verb. For example, I would say the firefighters put out the fire rather than extinguished the fire.
Many of my students in Yamashina have found phrasal verbs a fun way of building vocabulary by taking one verb and finding ways it can form two-part verbs. Let’s take a look at a few examples using the base verb ”cut.”
This form has two main meanings, the first is to reduce the amount of something that you consume. For example, the doctor told him to cut down the amount of salt in his diet.
The second use is to level something to the ground through cutting, or to cut something from a high location. As an example, we could talk about cutting down an old tree in our garden which was becoming dangerous. Also cutting down hanging decorations after a party is an option rather than carefully taking them down individually.
Cut up has one main use and that is to cut something into many smaller pieces. If we return to the tree which I cut down in my garden, I might decide to cut it up to make smaller logs in order to dispose of it more easily. A cook preparing vegetables will cut them up before cooking.
A second, although maybe less common use, is to express a feeling of upset. For example, the boy was cut up about failing his school examinations.
Cut off also has more than one use depending on context. Perhaps the most literal meaning is to separate a smaller piece from a complete item. Again, going back to tree which I cut down, before cutting it up I would probably choose to cut off the branches. That is, I would remove them from the trunk of the tree. The cook may decide to cut excess off meat before cooking.
An alternative use is to mean disconnecting a supply of something. If you don’t pay your utility charges the company will cut you off leaving you with no power or maybe phone service.
Another meaning is to isolate, for example in winter after very heavy snowfall, a small village may be cut off. This village has become inaccessible by road until the snow either melts or gets cleared.
This form also has multiple uses. Firstly, someone may want to cut something out of a magazine or newspaper. This means they wish to separate a particular piece or picture from the publication.
We also use this verb to describe an engine or motor stopping unintentionally. His car cut out just as the traffic signals changed to green.
It can also mean to completely exclude something from a routine or diet. For example, he decided to cut coffee out because he was finding it hard to sleep at night. His parents told him to cut out playing games on his phone until after his school tests.
Cut in is mainly used to indicate interrupting someone when they are speaking. He kept cutting in during my presentation which I found annoying.
Cutting in can also refer to jumping in front of others waiting in line, something which often happens at train stations for example.
As you can see there are many different forms from just one base verb. How about trying to find other phrasal verbs from other bases, it can be fun and help to widen vocabulary?