Mark Kennedy’s article about the Petro situation contained quite a lot of interesting language. Today, we-re going to examine some of the phrasal verbs he used so well. Phrasal verbs are an extremely important part of English but many students have trouble using them correctly.
What is a phrasal verb? Well, most are made by adding a preposition to a verb, which usually gives the verb a different meaning. This new meaning is often similar to the original verb, but more specific. For example, a common phrasal verb is ‘find out’ meaning ‘to search for details’. However, because English likes to be difficult, sometimes the meanings are very different! Remember to conjugate only the verb and not the preposition.
‘To show up’ – to arrive
“…and the few hundred who did show up in Plaza Bolivar…”
Here the verb is ‘show’, and the preposition ‘up’. It is almost the same as arrive, although it also has a meaning of ‘allowing everyone to know you are present’. It means everyone sees you.
For example, “my ex boyfriend showed up at my house yesterday…I was so angry!”
It can also be used negatively, to mean that someone didn’t arrive, and this was a big problem – “my new boyfriend didn’t show up at my party…I was so angry!”
Think about playing (and not just drinking) poker. When it is time to display the cards and see who the winner is, each player shows their cards…face up!
‘To rise up’ – to become (more) powerful
“…despite fresh calls to rise up in protest…”
‘Rise’ is the verb in this example, which means to go from low to high. In combination with ‘up’, it gives an idea of changing from being passive to active. We often use this phrasal verb for politics, especially revolutions or large events, where the people suddenly become very active.
Many people have risen up in Venezuela recently. It also appears in many songs, where it usually means someone is finding their true strength or changing their attitude.
For example, if we must, the ‘classic’ song from Rocky, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ “…rising up/back on the street…rising up to the challenge” where the ‘band’ are talking about needing strength. There’s also some crap by Beyoncé, but research can only go so far.
‘To single (someone/something) out’ – to focus on (someone/something)
“…Petro says Ordoñez has singled him out…”
This phrasal verb is usually used as a negative, to mean that someone/something is receiving focus for something bad.
We usually put the object in the phrasal verb “My boss is singling me out and it’s unfair”, but not always: “If I had to single out a weak point in the Colombian team, it would definitely be Cuadrado. He’s shit with funky Ds on”.
Here, Petro is saying that Ordoñez is unfairly focussing on him (and not, we assume, other people) because of a personal problem. We also have another common phrasal verb for this: ‘to pick on (someone)’.
Drag on – to continue for a long time and be boring
“… the saga was allowed to drag on for so long…”
Unlike dragons, which are absolutely amazing and definitely positive, drag on is always negative.
It means something that takes a long time and makes everyone bored. Like the Transmilenio, although we use drag on for processes or events.
“Titanic dragged on for two hours, but at least Leo DiCaprio died.”
Notice that Mark also uses the word saga, which in English means a very long story – perfect to use with this phrasal verb.
This phrasal verb is often used in passive constructions and when we want to be more active with the verb, we use drag out: “Despite not releasing any good music since the eighties, Metallica have dragged their career out for another three decades.
Put (someone) off – to discourage; to make someone not want to do something
“…put the whole lot off going to the polls…”
This is when someone doesn’t want to do something because of a negative situation or event.
“The unbelievable levels of chilli really put me off his cooking”.
“The rain puts me off cycling, because I am a weak-minded wimp.”
Note that if you want to use the passive, the subject will move to the front of the clause: “I was put off by (Andrés’ comments condoning rape culture/the high prices)”.
This phrasal verb is also used to mean ‘to postpone’ or ‘to delay’ usually with a time reference.
“I don’t want to work, I’ll put it off until tomorrow”.
This is a useful reminder of how important context can be in English, because many words have multiple definitions (and put has no difference in conjugation)!
‘Throw out’ – to discard; to expel with force
“…if Petro can be thrown out of office for his mishandling of the city’s trash collection, should someone else be thrown out of office…”
We’ve saved the best for last, because this is a very nice use of the phrasal verb.
First, throw out means to expel “the security will throw you out (of the disco) if you harass women”.
“I threw my girlfriend out (of the house) because she slept with another man”.
The reason this is clever in this context is because throw out can also refer to things. In this use, it means to discard, like rubbish.
“I threw my book out because it had arequipe on the pages”.
Of course, Petro was thrown out because of a situation involving rubbish (things that are thrown out)…so this is a very clever word play.