March 9, 2012 4 Comments
Many phrasal verbs have a similar looking compound noun. For example, the phrasal verb “take off”, which means “to depart”, corresponds to the noun “takeoff”, which means “departure”.
Here they are in sentences:
The plane could not take off until the snow was cleared.
Why was the takeoff delayed so long?
Phrasal verbs are distinguished from compound nouns by the stress. The stress of phrasal verbs is on the 2nd part, but compound nouns are stressed on the 1st part. Listen to the stress in the these examples:
This new cake recipe did not turn out very well.
Voter turnout is expected to be high for the next election.
They went to the gym to work out.
The fitness instructor started them on a new workout.
Let’s drive through so we don’t have to get out of the car.
The drive-through is open even if the dining room is closed.
(Note: this noun is often spelled “drive thru” –it’s easier to put on a sign that way)
The car broke down again? We really need to get a new one.
There was a breakdown in communications after they discovered the new evidence.
I hope the sun breaks through the clouds soon – it’s been raining all week.
There have been many medical breakthroughs in the last 50 years.
The storm knocked out the electricity in the whole town.
The boxer won by a knockout in the first round.
We will have to carry on the best we can even without his help.
How many carry-ons does this airline allow?
Will you please ask John to call me back when he arrives?
They promised a callback to let us know when it’s ready.
Let’s turn this project over to someone with more experience.
That job has a lot of turnover – most workers don’t stay more than a year.
They are going to give prizes away at the grand opening.
Then they will have a giveaway of gift cards next month.
You may have noticed that in some of these examples the phrasal verb and the compound noun have similar meanings, while others do not. In reality, each of these nouns and verbs have several meanings. One other thing to know is that not every phrasal verb has a corresponding compound noun.
So, that leads us to the chicken-or-the-egg question: which came first, the phrasal verbs or the compound nouns? I’m not exactly sure, but I would guess it’s the phrasal verbs. Either way, new phrasal verbs and new compound nouns are being invented in English all the time. So keep your eyes open for them, and remember to be careful with the stress.
(There are many websites for learning English that have lists of phrasal verbs, but the best resource that I have found is The Macmillan Dictionary. The definitions and examples seem to be very thorough.)