Teaching phrasal verbs: phrasal verbs about money

A lot of my students claim phrasal verbs are the most difficult part of any given English course. They are not sure how to learn them, and even less sure how to use them. As a result, they try to memorise long lists but never risk using any in speaking or writing. I wrote more on how to approach learning phrasal verbs in my guest post for Keep Smiling English here.

This lesson plan shows the classroom side of teaching and learning phrasal verbs. The aim of the lesson is to first introduce four different phrasal verbs that are used to talk about money, consolidate their form, and then use them in context to talk about the topic. There are four different activities that help learn the form and the meaning of each of the phrasal verbs. I would suggest doing 2-3 from each category. I have used this activity with my intermediate and upper-intermediate adult groups.

The form

#1: Matching

Put four verbs (splash, save, pay, get) and their prepositions ( out, up, back, by) in two columns on the board, changing the order. Students should match two parts of phrasal verbs either in their notebooks or on the board.

#2: Phrasal verbs echo

Distribute strips of paper (materials section) among your students, half the class get VERBS, half get PREPOSITIONS. A student who is a verb should start by saying their word out loud, and whoever has the matching preposition should reply:

Student A: Splash!                          Student B: Out!                    Correct, collect their strips of paper

Student C: Get!                               Student D: Up!                    Incorrect, students need to keep their strips

Play until no students are left with pieces of paper. Round two means switching strips of papers between students; those who were VERBS are now PREPOSITIONS.

#3: Flashcards 

Use the symbols that go with each phrasal verb in the form of flashcards (materials section). You might draw them on separate pieces of paper or use the document below. Show your class the symbol and see whether they remember the phrasal. First show them each symbol slowly, then increase the pace/mix the order of cards. I was surprised how entertaining this group chanting was to my adult groups, especially when it involved seriously increasing the speed.

#4: Memory game

Play a mini memory game using symbols and words. The set is in the materials section. Students play in pairs or groups, the aim of the game is to collect as many matching pairs as possible.

The meaning and using in context

#1: Mingling activity

Keep four questions from the first visual on the board visible for the students and ask them to write more follow-up questions:

Example: When was the last time you splashed out? What did you buy? Why did you buy it? How much was it? etc.

They may work in pairs or individually, work with every main question or choose two, depending on your class size and time available. Once they have finished ask them to interview each other in pairs using their list of questions. Later, ask your students to mingle and ask and answer questions with at least 2 or 3 other people (depending on the class size).

#2: Phrasal verbs questions

Students work in pairs. Each pair gets assigned two phrasal verbs and their task is to write as many questions containing each as possible, each on a separate piece of paper.

Example: “save up”          

Are you good at saving up?/ Why do people save up?/Did you save up money as a child?/

Who is better at saving up, men or women?/ What would you buy if you saved up a lot of money?

Have your students work in bigger groups now. Divide the collected strips of paper so that each group has example questions containing each of the four phrasal verbs. Every student draws a question from a pile and answers it. It is important that they try to use the phrasal verb in their answer.

Example: Are you good at saving up?    

I’m not very good at saving up. I usually spend a big part of my salary soon after they pay me.                                       

#3 Talk for 1 minute

Students work in small groups (a whole-class activity for smaller groups). It is great if each group have a stopwatch ready. Students draw a phrasal verb from a pile and their task is to talk for at least one minute about the topic this phrasal verb concerns. Ideally, students should repeatedly use the phrasal verb in their mini speech. I once had a very creative student who spent over a minute talking about the importance of paying the money back, however, the average length of these speeches is up to 45 seconds, it really is not easy to go on for a full minute 🙂

#4 Agree/Disagree

Prepare four statements for students to debate, each containing one phrasal verb.


1. Women splash out more than men.

2. Saving up without an objective in mind makes no sense.

3. If someone does not pay you the money they owe back, it is reasonable to report them to the police.

4. It is not so difficult to get by on a low salary, all you need is some creativity.                            

Students discuss each statement in pairs or small groups to see how much they agree/disagree with it and with each other. Compare different opinions after finishing the discussion.

Last but not least, it is homework time. I asked my students to pick a phrasal verb and write an 80-100-word story/essay whose topic would contain this phrasal verb. Those lacking their own topic ideas could use one of the statements from the Agree/Disagree exercise and present their thoughts.

For some more phrasal verbs practice see phrasal verbs dominoes or Connect 4.

For more sets of phrasal verbs on particular topics see relationships, education, and sport.

Personal Experience  

I have to admit I had some reservations about spending the whole class on phrasal verbs (60 mins). Turned out the class went great and focusing entirely on one language point through different activities was my aha! moment. My students were gaining more and more confidence using these phrasal verbs as the class went on, they saw how they actually could express themselves using them ( a nice step up from thinking phrasal verbs were there to make their lives miserable), and left the classroom feeling they have made tremendous progress. More importantly, everybody remembered at least two phrasal verbs when asked the following week, and one of my students showed me a set of mini flashcards she made using pictures and words (similar to the memory game cards).



Phrasal verbs echo game PHRASAL VERBS MONEY_ECHO


Phrasal verbs memory game PHRASAL VERBS MONEY MEMORY GAME


  1. Thanks so much Gosia for these ideas. It’s not always easy finding new activities to teach phrasal verbs, especially when just the mention of phrasal verbs sends shivers down the spines of students! I’ve tried the Echo activity with a group of 14 students and they lived it.

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