The weekly column

Article 96, April 2002

A Multi-Word Verbs in Context Classroom Activity 

By Robert Wyss 

Level: Intermediate
Target Audience: Adults
Language/Skills Focus: Reading, Speaking/Listening, Vocabulary-Building


Pre-reading Activity
Have students quickly read through the list of phrasal verbs/vocabulary list and note the definitions given.

Reading Activity
Either singly or in pairs, have students read through the text and try to identify as many phrasal verbs as possible. What do these mean?

Post-reading Activities
1. Elicit from students as many secondary meanings to the verbs make up and give up as possible.
2. Elicit answers to the three reading comprehension questions.
3. Discuss the points listed about modern lifestyle trends.
4. Follow the directions for the other activities and exercises. The teacher may assign the written exercises for in- or out-of-class work.

The target verbs for this unit are:

make up to form a part of the whole of sth
drop off to decline or decrease significantly
go up to increase in some way
move into to relocate to a new home
give up to surrender
stay in to remain at home, especially in the evening
account for to explain why sth is the way it is
rule out to eliminate a possible course of action
spring up to appear suddenly
focus on to give a lot of attention to sth
reach out to to ask for or to give help



lifestyle your way of life
wreak havoc create chaos
mobility the ability to move
on their own alone, by themselves
stick to something to remain attached to sth
the single life living without a companion
bachelor an unmarried man


European Singles

An increasing number of Europeans are choosing to live alone at an ever earlier age. This isn't the stuff of philosophical meditations, but a fact of Europe's new economic landscape. "The shift away from family life to solo lifestyle," observes Italian sociologist Giovanni Cintura, "makes up an important part of the trend of individualism over the last century".

The communications revolution, the shift from a business culture of stability to one of mobility and the mass entry of women into the work force have wreaked havoc on Europeans' private lives. More and more of them are remaining on their own: they're living longer, divorcing more and marrying later--if at all. British marriage rates have dropped off by more than 30 percent in the past ten years. INSEE, France's National Institute of Statistics, conducts surveys focused on domestic demographics and a recent study revealed that the number of French people living alone doubled between 1994 and 2002.

The home-alone phenomenon remains an urban and a Northern European trend: people who live in rural areas--as well as the Spaniards, Italians, Greeks, and Irish--tend to stick to families. The Scandinavians, Dutch, and Germans like to live alone, as do 7 million Britons.

In the next 15 years, the British population is expected to decline, but the number of houses is expected to go up by 25 percent--an increase mainly accounted for by single people. In London, luxury complexes with tiny flats, gyms, and easy access to urban pleasures are springing up for young professionals. When single people move into the neighborhood, say geographers, latte bars, gyms, local music bars, art galleries and restaurants are sure to follow.

Women, it seems, enjoy the single life more than men. "Women are still expected to be the housewife in couples," Cintura notes. "It's very difficult for women to overcome the traditional stereotypes, so the only way they can achieve sexual equality is to live alone." Anna De Kergolay, a London-based photo-journalist, has chosen to live alone but hasn't ruled out the idea of marriage. "If I got married," she explains, "I would still want to have my own room - a place where I could be by myself. I wouldn't give up my freedom for a man."

By contrast, the bachelor tends to stay in. "The man who lives alone is more often a sad case, especially with older men," says British psychologist Mark O'Keefe. "They often have no one to reach out to for help when they need it and they tend to socialise less frequently than the women."


Comprehension Check
1. In what ways has the communications revolution changed the lifestyle of many Europeans?
2. How does the geography of an area change when singles move into the neighborhood?
3. Why do women seem to enjoy the single life more than men?

Discussion Points
1. Discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages to living the 'single life'. To living with a partner.
2. Are the lifestyle trends discussed in the reading passage typical of life in your country as well? Explain.
3. Why do you think people who live in rural areas tend to 'stick to families'?

Separable or Inseparable? Transitive or Intransitive?

Decide which of these sentences are correct (C) and which are incorrect (I).


We cannot rule out any of the possibilities. C
We can't rule out it. I
We can't rule it out. C

1 She really should give up smoking. ___
2 She really should give it up. ___
3 She really should give up it. ___

4 Could you look at the report for me? ___
5 Could you look it at for me? ___
6 Could you look at it for me? ___

7 There's no accounting for the financial loss. ___
8 There's no accounting for it. ___
9 There's no accounting for. ___

10 We need to focus it on. ___
11 We need to focus on the main issue. ___
12 We need to focus on it. ___

13 Prices keep going up. ___
14 Prices keep going up in the shops. ___
15 They keep going up. ___

16 I'll drop off the books at the library. ___
17 I'll drop them off. ___
18 I'll drop off them. ___

Word Partnerships

Which word or phrase best follows each phrasal verb?

the financial slump * in value * all the issues * a story and sit down * the problem * the missing soldiers * tonight * the overdue library books

1. go up in value
2. look at __________________
3. come in__________________
4. stay in ___________________
5. make up __________________
6. account for ________________
7. focus on __________________
8. drop off ____________________

Word Square

A word-square worksheet for phrasal verbs is available for downloading and printing here

About the author

Robert Wyss is currently employed as Director of Studies at a language school in Milan, Italy. He has also taught several years at a Roman college preparatory school (Lyceo Classico Statale). His undergraduate degree is in Journalism/Anthropology and he has recently completed a Master of Arts Degree in Applied Linguistics from Ball State University, Muncie, IN, USA.

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