Teaching Phrasal Verbs – Fun with Take and Make

Making art.

“Make change your friend.” – Bill Clinton (1946-), 42nd President of the United States

Part of Teacher Edition Tuesday, a weekly series based on ten teaching tips from the recently released Compelling American Conversations – Teacher Edition!

“Take” and “make” create many common phrasal verbs. One could “take” several English lessons just going over the intricacies of their usage in a conversation. Variants such as “make up” and “take out” have multiple meanings and are often very confusing for many English language learners. This confusion is the reason why students must listen and read for context rather than individual words. Context comprehension will also assist them in getting better scores exams such as TOEFL and IELTS.

Some common examples of take/make phrasal verb variants are:

Take out, after, over, apart, in, up, back;

Make out, of, over, through, up.

You can also take this opportunity in the classroom to show how phrasal verbs can be separated.

Example: George took his girlfriend out for dinner in Little Italy to celebrate her birthday. Did you make it through exam week intact?


Here’s a working list to get you and your English students started:

Take After – To look or act like someone else

  • Wow, David really takes after his father. He looks and acts like him.


Take Apart – To break into smaller pieces, to dismantle, or to reduce something or someone’s action or statement

  • Did you see the debate yesterday between the two candidates? The Senator took his opponent apart.
  • I won’t know what’s wrong with your car until I take the motor apart.


Take Back – To regret and apologize for something said or done

  • “Take it back! I never cheated in soccer. You’re the one who always cries foul.


Take In – To observe with detail and for enjoyment

  • We took in the view when we climbed the mountain


Take Out – To remove something from somewhere.

  • Hiro, could you take out the trash on your way out please?
  • Take out the reference in your essay about Joey, he might not appreciate it.


Take Over – To conquer or take control of something.

  • Do you want me to take over? You look tired.
  • Genghis Khan formed the Mongol Empire after invading and taking over most of Eurasia.


Take Up – To begin to do something or accept an offer

  • Did you hear about Eric, I heard he took up scriptwriting and stopped writing novels.
  • I think I’ll take you up on that offer to go to Hawaii. I really need a break.


Make Of – To figure something out or to try and distinguish something.

  • What do you make of this painting? It’s truly odd.


Make Out – To kiss someone, or to interpret meaning

  • I saw Jenny and Ted making out at the restaurant last night. I didn’t know they were a couple.
  • What were you trying to say? I couldn’t make out your handwriting, the ink was smudged.


Make Over – To have a complete change in life or to change something/someone’s physical appearance

  • Laurie had new carpeting installed in her living room, and now she wants to make over the whole apartment!


Make Through – To survive something or to complete something

  • The end of the semester is difficult, and many college students are just trying to make it through finals week in one piece.


Make Up – To create or invent something out of thin air, or to settle differences.

  • That news sounds too good to be true, did you make that up?
  • Juan and I had an argument last week, but we made up over coffee today.


Which phrasal verbs do you review in the classroom? What context do you give your students to aid their understanding? Let us know!

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Teacher Edition Tuesdays feature material introduced in Compelling American Conversations – Teacher Edition, the companion text to the original Compelling American Conversations. Sample chapters of each are available on CompellingConversations.com and ChimayoPress.com. We also offer a free copy of the Teacher Edition with class sets for adult ESL schools, literacy centers, Intensive English language programs (IEP) , church and other non-profit groups offering ESL classes to immigrants and refugees. Contact Eric Roth here for more information.

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