Phrasal Verbs: Learning & Studying

In our previous post we looked at the meanings of two verbs – to learn and to study. We analyzed their similarities and differences, and today, we’d like to help you increase your vocabulary with phrasal verbs about some of the most important processes – learning and studying.

PHRASAL VERBS IN CONTEXT: language learning

Language learning can open up a wide range of opportunities for you in terms of work, pleasure and cultural enrichment. A foreign language can help you build up an awareness of cultural differences; on holiday abroad, even if you can only get by in the language, your stay will be more enjoyable; at home, knowledge of a language can make you stand out in university applications. Furthermore, once you’ve learnt one foreign language, you will know how to go about learning another, and may find it easier to pick it up.

  • to open something up – to create new possibilities and opportunities
  • to build something up – to gradually create or develop something
  • to get by in a language – to know just enough of a language to be able to do what you need to do
  • to stand out (from somebody/something) – to be easy to notice or see because of being different
  • to go about (doing something) – to start dealing with something in a particular way
  • to pick a language up (to pick up a language) – to learn a language easily, without working hard at it

You may need to brush up on your language skills before you travel. But don’t worry. The Internet opens up great opportunities for language leaning, and it would be a shame not to use them. So, before you immense yourself in a new culture and, hopefully, soak up some sun, immense yourself in the language you’ll need to use. Various websites and apps will help you with that. Don’t miss out on fantastic free materials available online, or even consider signing up for an online language course. No matter what works best for you, make the most of your learning experience.

  • to brush up on something = to brush something up – to practice and improve your knowledge of and skills in something that you learned in the past
  • to soak up (the sun) – to spend time enjoying the sun
  • to miss out on somethingto fail to use an opportunity to enjoy or get an advantage from something
  • to sign up for (a course) – to join a course

PHRASAL VERBS IN CONTEXT: a learning process

As I had planned a holiday in France, I decided to brush up on my French before I went, and I enrolled on a local evening course. At first, I had to rack my brains (= think very hard) to remember anything, and I couldn’t make sense of the grammar, so it was very hard to keep up with the other students. Then, after a while, things started coming back to me, and I realized there were lots of words on the tip of my tongue. But some of the new vocabulary wouldn’t sink in. When you work hard all day, it’s not easy to keep your mind on a difficult subject in the evening. But I stuck at it, and I began to pick things up more quickly. All I have to do now is keep it up.

  • to keep up with somebodyto do whatever is necessary to stay level or equal with someone
  • to come back to somebody (of information) – to be remembered/recalled
  • to sink in (of information/experiences) – to be remembered/understood
  • to stick at somethingto continue trying hard to do something difficult
  • to keep something up – to continue to do something as well as you are doing it now

PHRASAL VERBS IN CONTEXT: studying for exams

Thursday is my last chance to revise for the economics exam. I’ve worked hard to try and get on top of this subject (= to deal with it successfully). Not only have I got into the habit of reading the business pages in the newspapers, but I also spent the holidays going through all my lecture notes. I know it’s important not to get too bogged down, so I decided not to study everything but just try and work out which questions might come up – and concentrate on those. I also went through some past papers with a friend, which was really useful. OK, enough talking, I’d better get down to some work.

  • to go through something = to go over something – to look at or study notes, papers, etc.
  • to get bogged down (in something) – to become so involved with the details of something that you can’t make any progress
  • to work something out – to solve a problem by considering the facts
  • to come up (of a question, number, etc.) – to be selected and appear somewhere (e.g. in an exam paper or a test)
  • to get down to (work) – to begin to do (work) and give serious attention to (work)

And, now let’s do a small test. Choose the right particle to complete the sentences (the answer key is at the bottom of the page):

  1. Learning a foreign language opens (on/up/in) ___ all sorts of possibilities to you.
  2. I only get (up/in/by) ___ in Japanese.
  3. He’s the kind of man that stands (out/down/up) ___ in a crowd.
  4. How did you go (on/along/about) ___ finding a job?
  5. Visit the market to soak (in/up/down) ___ the local atmosphere.
  6. I can’t think of her name right now, but I’m sure it’ll come (on/up/back) ___ to me. (check pout the post for phrases about forgetting)
  7. Just stick (at/on/with) ___ it and I’m sure it’ll get easier.
  8. Try not to get bogged (in/down/up) ___ in unnecessary detail.
  9. I can’t work (out/up/on) ___ what to do.
  10. After lunch we got (up/on/down) ___ to discussing the issue of pay.
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“Keep the flame of curiosity and wonderment alive, even when studying for boring exams.” Michio Kaku, an American theoretical physicist

Answer key: 1. up 2. by 3. out 4. about 5. up 6. back 7. at 8. down 9. out 10. down

Books used for writing the article: “Oxford Learner’s Pocket Phrasal Verbs & Idioms” by R.Gairns and S.Redman, “Oxford Word Skills Idioms & Phrasal Verbs” by R.Gairns and S.Redman

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