Is there a formulaic method to get phrasal verbs right without even having read them all? To clarify, if I know the meaning of a common verb, say GET, how can I, without committing to memory the innumerable phrasal verbs, know the exact meaning of any particular phrasal verb of the word ? Or is there no such heuristic and I simply have to study them all to be able to use them?

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    This is a good question, may be only to me, so I upvoted, but I suspect this question might be likely to end up in being closed.
    – user17814
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 18:40
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    get on its own has about six different meanings....there are some tricks one can use but you do have to just learn them. The more common ones should not present issues.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 18:46
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    If you spend a lot of time with English language input, like reading books or listening to broadcasts, you will start to get an idea of the various senses from the actual examples that appear. Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 18:55
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    Somewhat related: Fall vs Fall down
    – Em.
    Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 2:18

2 Answers 2


No, there is absolutely not a formulaic way to do this, any more than there is a formulaic way to know how to spell an English word you have heard but not seen written.

As with spelling, there are some patterns, which can help you learn, and may sometimes let you guess the answer; but your guesses will sometimes be wrong.


Unfortunately, no, there isn’t, at least in a useful way.

The most important words to learn are the oldest, shortest and most often used, which means they have also evolved the most over time and may have multiple meanings, irregular (often vestigial) forms, strange idioms, etc.

Newer, longer words tend to be more regular simply due to less use, but that also means they are individually less useful to know.

  • I second with you. There is none at least in a useful way. The language called "English" has gone too difficult in a sense after it went though the Great Vowel Shift IMO.
    – user17814
    Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 2:29

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