Success with Phrasal Verbs

Formal phrasal verbs in writing

Formal Phrasal Verbs


Maria: Hello sunshine and welcome into our last episode on phrasal verbs on this Podcourse.

Rory: It's the final episode, but we should be serious because it's a serious subject.

Maria: Oh yeah serious, formal and serious. You may have heard that phrasal verbs are more informal, but this is not true because some phrasal verbs could be informal, formal or neutral, the same as other words in the English beautiful language. So for example, in formal writing, and email to a friend, you might use some phrasal verbs. You may use some slang idioms colloquial expressions abbreviations (this is informal writing) and phrasal verbs could be informal. And actually, most of the phrasal verbs are informal. For example, pig out so okay, it was my birthday yesterday and I pigged out - I ate a lot.

Rory: But if we are writing formally, then we would not say this. We can say consumed.

Maria: In a formal writing, you can't use pig out. By formal writing I mean a formal letter to a person you don't know, a report, a formal essay, an IELTS essay, an IELTS graphs, you can't use pig out. Rory, we have single verbs. So is it true that for every phrasal verb we have a single verb? So for example, we have the verb calculate. So what's the phrasal verb?

Rory: Oh work out!

Maria: Yeah. So you see, we have a single verb which tends to be more formal and we have a phrasal verb equivalent, which is work out. So calculate is good to use in formal writing and work out is good for speaking informal emails. Some more examples: To discover - find out. Find out is going to be more informal. We can discuss things, we can talk about things, right? But if I talk about my friends, can I use the verb discuss?

Rory: You can!

Maria: Yeah, but talk about is going to be more informal. I can say the prices increase or they are going up, go up is going to be more informal. So do you see this pattern? Right? So single verbs tend to be more formal phrasal verbs tend to be more informal. So, some phrasal verbs are neutral, they are neither formal or informal. For example, carry out. Like, researchers carry out a survey.

Rory: Or they carry out a research.

Maria: Yeah. So this is a neutral phrasal verb which could be used in an informal situation, also in formal writing,

Rory: While the researchers are doing their research, they need to take into account various factors in their research.

Maria: Yep. So take into account is kind of neutral, right? Or more formal phrasal verb.

Rory: Take into account is formal and more formal will be tak into consideration.

Maria: There are formal phrasal verbs which could be used in academic writing, formal writing reports, business letters, scientific papers, technical papers, legal documents, news reports. You see, official government documents, even, could include some phrasal verbs. And actually, there are phrasal verbs, which are so formal that they can only be used in formal speech or writing. For example, adhere to.

Rory: You adhere to the rules, adhere to the instructions.

Maria: You adhere to her principles, for example, or like she adhered to her principles, or like, they failed to adhere to the terms of this agreement... very formal, you don't speak to your friends like that. What about engage in. Like, to take part in something or engage in.

Rory: Okay, so to take part is the informal one and to engage in is the very, very formal one.

Maria: They engaged in dialogues to resolve the problem. So engaging is a very formal phrasal verb. Another formal one is account for.

Rory: Yes. So when you account for something, it means that it's something you think about while you are undergoing a process. This is quite good for talking about graphs and charts and diagrams, because you could say it accounts for this, but it doesn't account for something else.

Maria: Yeah. When in IELTS for example, you write about pie charts. You can say that fast food accounted for the majority of Scottish people's diet. It means that fast food made up, represented the majority of their diet. Or for example, like cold weather accounted for the rise in fuel use. If we take something into account...

Rory: Then we include it in our consideration.

Maria: We consider it. So take the weather into account, for example, we should take it into account. Narrow down. I love this one narrow down!

Rory: Me too.

Maria: When we reduce the number of possibilities, we narrow it down, like, the age range was narrowed down, or the detectives narrowed down the list of suspects.

Rory: So they didn't have to resort to arresting everyone.

Maria: Like resort to - to do something unpleasant in order to solve a problem. It's usually negative, right? Resort to.

Rory: Well, or talking about negative things. For example, we shouldn't resort to violence. Yeah, it's always resort to something negative.

Maria: Like, we must resort to legal action.

Rory: Yes.

Maria: So, carry out would be a phrasal verb to be used in formal writing. Like, scientists have carried out experiments, tests, research, we have carried out a survey. What about bring about?

Rory: Well, like we talked about before. Bring about is just a cause for change to happen.

Maria: It brought about a huge change. It caused a huge change.

Rory: It could bring about a huge change.

Maria: Yeah, could. We should be academic, soft, distant, less direct. Can I use the verb bring up? Like, bring up children, meaning to raise children in a formal essay?

Rory: If you have to paraphrase, then yes. But there are other ones like talking about their upbringing, raising children, as well. So you really should try these ones first, before paraphrasing to that level.

Maria: Yeah. You see, raise children would be more formal than bring up children. What about look forward to? Can I use it in formal writing? In academic writing in the formal letter or formal essay? Like, I look forward to receiving your reply.

Rory: You can at the end of a message or the end of the letter, like, I look forward to hearing from you in due course. That's a nice phrase, in due course.

Maria: I like that. Really formal. Usually, when you talk to people, you don't say like, Oh, I look forward to meeting you. Oh, actually, you do. It's a bit formal, though. No?

Rory: It's neutral!

Maria: Neutral. Okay. Informally, you'd say: Oh, I can't wait. Look into. That's another one. So if you look into something...

Rory: You investigate.

Maria: Yay! You discover facts about something. Like, we looked into the matter. Or they looked into the matter. If you write a letter, or an essay or a report about trees, you can write: trees were cut down. Yeah, and that's a precise phrasal verb to use.

Rory: And it's passive voice!

Maria: Yeah, which is formal. So cut down trees - a specific phrasal verb about trees. Can we use to sum up in formal writing? It looks like an informal phrasal verb. To sum up. In conclusion, to sum up.

Rory: It can be used. It's not my first choice, though.

Maria: Usually we write in conclusion, or to summarize,

Rory: To conclude...

Maria: To conclude, there we go. But it's possible to write to sum up.

Rory: In sum!

Maria: When we refer to different people and their opinions, we can write "As Mr. Yellow points out", and then blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, what Mr. Yellow, who is a very famous researcher, Scottish researcher...

Rory: Is he?

Maria: Yes, he looked into whiskey matter, and how we can balance drinking whiskey and eating cornflakes at the same time, wearing kilt screaming: Scotland freedom!

Rory: All of these things are permissible.

Maria: So as Mr. Yellow points out, you can pour whiskey into your cornflakes for breakfast. Rory is nodding his head, which means he agrees with him. If I single out stuff, what do I do?

Rory: You focus on it to the exclusion of other things.

Maria: So, for the purpose of this research, I am going to single out, like, two things out of 10. Narrow down, single out. I can write this essay focuses on the research on drinking whiskey - to focus on something. And then this research builds on previous work by Mr. Yellow, who looked into whiskey consumption with cornflakes.

Rory: Is there a graph for this?

Maria: And then Mr. Yellow arrived at...

Rory: The conclusion.

Maria: Yeah, arrive at conclusions. You see, a phrasal verb which is quite formal and could be in formal writing. So you see, dear listener, we can use phrasal verbs in formal writing isn't it's amazing? Again, if you're not sure, if this verb is formal, informal or neutral, better, don't use a phrasal verb. Use a single verb like increase - go up. So use this increase to be on the safe side.

Rory: Or if you have the time then you could look up.

Maria: In a dictionary. Usually dictionaries tell you "Okay, pig out is UK informal phrasal verb, right? Again, many phrasal verbs are informal. Like, Rory has been beavering away at his essay for hours. Beaver away - work very hard. And maybe you can feel that beaver away, pig out are informal phrasal verbs. But if you see something like "adhere to, engage in, narrow down", you see, they sound formal. But again, if you're not sure, don't use phrasal verbs use single verbs.


Outro


Rory: So to conclude, we hope that you've enjoyed this particular episode on using phrasal verbs in your writing. And on the subject of concluding, we've come to the end of the line.

Maria: Yeah, you've sat through this course. Yay! Congratulations! Thank you very much for listening. This is the final episode of our first Podcourse about phrasal verb. We hope you enjoyed it. And if you have any comments or questions about anything on the course you can always reach us on Instagram or Telegram, or any of the other social media that we're on.

Maria: Rory, what's the word of advice? So the final word from you to the people of the world who are struggling with phrasal verbs

Rory: Keep practicing. You'll get there in the end. It's not as hard as it seems.

Maria: Feel free to re-listen to different episodes, jot down your favorite phrasal verbs. Again, there's no need to learn all of them. We love you. We kiss you bye bye!

Rory: Bye! We'll see you on the podcast!


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More useful formal phrasal verbs


Devote something/yourself to something/someone -
to give your time or effort completely to something you believe in or to a person, or to use a particular amount of time or energy doing something:
  • He devoted his life to serving his family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Rory’s speech was devoted to the issue of freedom in different countries.

Deprive of - to take something, especially something necessary or pleasant away from someone:
  • He was deprived of food for three days.

Cater for - to provide what is wanted or needed by someone or something:
  • The club caters for children between the ages of four and twelve.

Sum up - to express briefly the important facts about something or the characteristics of someone:
  • The oral report should sum up the main points of the written essay.
  • Rory is a man with a big ego – that about sums him up. ( it’s a joke)))

Aim at - to produce something for a particular purpose or a particular group of people
aim at doing sth:
  • The new budget aims at providing extra support for the unemployed.
  • The new photo editing software is being aimed at mobile application developers.

Accede to - agree to:
The authorities finally acceded to his request for a work permit.

Attend to - deal with:
We will attend to your request in due course.

Ascribe to - explain:
He ascribes his success to hard work in his youth.

Predispose to - make more likely:
The presence of the gene may predispose a person to heart disease.

Preside over - be in charge of:
James Hansen is to preside over the government inquiry.

Bear on - to be connected to:
Some new facts have emerged which bear on the Smith case.

Call on - use:
The castaways had to call on all their strength to survive.

Want for - to be without:
  • All her life the princess had never wanted for anything.

Consist of - to be made of or formed from something:
  • Furthermore, it is a quiet village and basically consists of families with very young children.

Founded on - to be based on a particular idea, principle, fact, or quality:
  • Democracy is founded on the ideal of equality for all citizens. [(always passive) 

Contend with - to have to deal with a difficult or unpleasant situation
  • The people have many difficulties to contend with: poor soil, inadequate roads and lack of investment. 

Result in - to cause a particular situation to happen:
  • Government economic policies have resulted in an improved standard of living in the region.

Improve on - do something in a better way or with better results than when it was done before.
  • We need to find ways to improve on the current system of distribution of goods. 


Object to - to feel or express opposition to or dislike of something or someone:
  • Many people object to their leaders treating them as if they were not capable of running their own lives.

Insist on doing smth - to keep doing something, even if it annoys other people, or people think it is not good for you:
  • The university has always insisted on a high standard of teaching and research.