10 Phrasal Verb Exercises for ESL Students

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English phrasal verbs are one of the most challenging lessons to learn for ESL students. As the name suggests, these are verbs that actually form a phrase consisting of a verb and preposition – for example: hang out, put down, bring up, watch out, and so on.

Besides, different verb-preposition combinations have different meanings, and it can be quite tricky for the students to tell this difference. Therefore, to avoid this confusion and help your students memorize the most common phrasal verbs, it is important to give them as many phrasal verb exercises as possible. Learning phrasal verbs early on in ESL lessons will enrich the speech of your students and make it closer to the native speaker level.

Just like other ESL games and activities, these lessons will make your class or session more exciting and work as student engagement strategies. It’s a great alternative to traditional classroom structure when you’re teaching english to kids.

In this article, we will share some fun and engaging ESL phrasal verb activities and games that you can try with your students.

Here are 10 ESL phrasal verb activities to add to your lessons

Matching phrasal verb practice

phrasal verb activities

Break the class into two teams and prepare two sets of, say, 50 flash cards each. The first 25 flashcards should have verbs and the second 25 flashcards should have prepositions printed on them. Mix the cards up and ask each team to match the verbs with prepositions to form phrasal verbs. To add more of a challenge to the game, ask the students to form sentences with each ESL phrasal verb or come up with synonyms for the verbs. The winning team is the one whose members are faster to form the English phrasal verbs.

Synonym matching phrasal verb practice

The principle of this game is the same as the one of the previous activity, but this time the student teams should match the entire phrasal verbs with their synonyms or definitions. For example, “watch out – beware.” For even more of a challenge, you can let the students come up with their own synonyms and give more points if those synonyms are correct.

Job names and phrasal verbs ESL

For this activity, you should prepare cards with the names of occupations/jobs, or just name those jobs. The learners, in their turn, should come up with a phrasal verb that can describe this job or is somewhat related to it. For example, “detective – search for.” You can group jobs into categories, like jobs for retired teachers or jobs where you work with your hands. 

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Statements and ESL phrasal verbs

Prepare the flash cards with statements and ask your ESL students to reply to those statements by using a phrasal verb. For example, “It is dark – Turn on the light.”

Taboo game

The students work in pairs and try to explain and guess the phrasal verbs. However, they should refrain from using specific words that are listed on their cards. For each correct guess, the students win a point. The winner is the student who has the most points at the end of the game.

Telephone phrasal verbs

The students get flashcards with telephone-specific phrasal verbs, such as pick up, hold on, hang up, etc, and memorize them. After that, they work in pairs and try to act out different telephone dialogues by using the phrasal verbs.

Common story

The students form a circle. The teacher begins a story by saying a sentence that includes a phrasal verb, for example, “I walked down the street.” The first student repeats the sentence and continues the story by adding a sentence with a phrasal verb, for example, “I walked down the street searching for the nearest shop.” Then each student in turn tries to remember what was said and then adds a sentence containing a phrasal verb to continue the story. Students are out of the game if they cannot continue the story by using a phrasal verb. The last remaining student is a winner.

Guessing English phrasal verbs

In this ESL phrasal verb game, the students work in teams and send the team members to mimic or draw common phrasal verbs that are written on their flashcards. For example, it is quite easy to mimic the “fall down”, “run away”, or “lean on” verbs. However, some verbs may be hard to mimic, so the students can draw them on a whiteboard.

Phrasal verbs in a box

Write about 20 different phrasal verbs on pieces of paper and put them in a box, bag, or a basket. Ask the students to take out several of them and write a story containing those phrasal verbs. The students can work both in groups or pairs or individually.

Simon Says

This is a variation of a popular classroom game, but this time with phrasal verbs. For example, “Simon” can “say”: “Sit down,” “Stand up,” “Turn around,” and so on, while the students should act out those verbs. The students can work in teams, and each team can get points for acting out correctly. You can also do this one-on-one if you teach english online from home

We hope that our collection of ESL phrasal verb games will bring more fun to your classroom and help your students memorize those challenging English phrasal verbs. If you’re just browsing, but plan on becoming a teacher, keep these in mind as you’re learning how to teach.


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