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Get to Grips with Phrasal Verbs through Games

Many students in Hong Kong are able to read and write well in English due to intensive drilling at schools. However, once they are required to speak in English, they are often stumped and don’t know how to express themselves. In my time teaching at i-Learner, I have come across many students who struggle with getting their messages across in daily conversation or with sounding natural when writing or speaking. This is usually because they do not have a good grasp of phrasal verbs.

Phrasal verbs are prevalent in both speaking and informal writing. A phrasal verb is a pair of words that act as a verb when combined. Each word has its own meaning but when put together, a new meaning is formed. For example, ‘hold’ and ‘on’ are words on their own but when put together as ‘to hold on’, they mean ‘to wait for a short period of time.’ Phrasal verbs are usually formed of a main verb (eg: stop, go) and a preposition (eg: up, over, in, down) or an adverb participle (eg: around, at, away, off). Here are some games to help you learn phrasal verbs in a fun way:

Game #1 Phrasal Verbs Charades

Materials needed: Cards with different phrasal verbs written on them.


  1. Draw a card from a bowl.
  2. Say the first word of the phrasal verb to the guessers.
  3. Act the phrasal verb out without using any words or sign language.
  4. The first person who guesses the phrasal verb wins.

Game #2 Phrasal Verbs Story Time

No materials needed.


  1. The first person starts a story with a sentence that includes a phrasal verb (eg: I woke up late on Monday).
  2. The second person repeats the first sentence and continues the story by adding a sentence which contains a phrasal verb (eg: I woke up late on Monday. I quickly hopped out of bed).
  3. The game continues with each person repeating what was said and then adding a new sentence with a phrasal verb.
  4. The first person to forget the previously said sentences or add a sentence without a phrasal verb is out, and the winner is the last person left in the game.

Game #3 Phrasal Verb Race

Materials needed: A whiteboard and markers or a piece of paper and a pen.


  1. Everyone is divided into two teams.
  2. Write a verb (eg: break) on the board or piece of paper.
  3. The first person in each team has one minute to make a phrasal verb with that verb and make a sentence based on it. (eg: break out / A fire broke out last night.)
  4. Teams swap papers for marking when the time limit has been reached. Each sentence that is grammatically correct and conveys the phrasal verb correctly gets one point.
  5. The second person in each team gets a new verb on the board or piece of paper, and they race again.
  6. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.


Due to the commonness of phrasal verbs in the English language, understanding informal language and expressing it may be challenging for students who struggle to understand and use phrasal verbs. However, the good news is learning phrasal verbs is not that hard at all. Once you read more and take the time to learn phrasal verbs, you will ace informal writing and be able to sound natural in daily conversation!