Making it up - Phrasal verb stories

A persistent problem area for students is phrasal verbs. This story activity presents the verbs in a context helping the students to work out the meaning.

Jackie McAvoy

It is also memorable so it's easier for students to remember them too.

Have each of the phrasal verbs from the story written on a piece of card, large enough for all the students to read. Have the verbs in their infinitive form e.g. to go out with / to turn up / to break down etc. Also make sure the pronoun is in the correct place depending on whether the verb can be separated from the particle or not e.g. to get on with something / to ask somebody in etc.

Download the sample story below.


  • Read out the story to the class slowly using gestures and miming to help meaning. Place a phrasal verb on the board each time you say one.
  • After each paragraph invite students, with your help, to repeat the story with you.
  • Once all the story has been presented put students in pairs and, using the cards on the board as prompts, get students to tell each other the story. Monitor and after they have all tried to say the story get them to tell you it themselves without you saying a word.
  • Keeping the students in pairs hand out the cards (have copies ready if you have a large class) so that each pair gets about 5 or 6 each. Working together the students have to make up a very short story using the verbs. Use the same verbs from the story. They can write the story down if they want.
  • When they have finished students have a few minutes to remember their story so that they can tell it to somebody without looking.
  • When the students have finished swap partners and get them to take it in turns to tell their story. The students should not be looking at their stories just remembering them. The listener can listen out for which phrasal verbs are being used.
  • For consolidation/revision you can make a matching verb and definition exercise with the more difficult verbs:

to call (somebody) out to have no more
to run out (of) to leave suddenly, quickly, unexpectedly
to pop out to telephone somebody in order to get help

You can also provide a speaking activity that personalises the verbs:

  • How long should you go out with somebody before getting married?
  • Does you teacher sometimes pop out of the class? Why?
Sample story44.75 KB
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