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I want to know why we use phrasal verbs? I saw many phrasal verbs that have similar meaning with a verb. why do we use them when there are verbs?

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    You need to give some examples of phrasal verbs that you consider to have the same meaning as plain verbs. – Kate Bunting Jul 14 at 7:48
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    Please list the many verbs that you saw. I cannot think of even just one. Thank you. – RegDwigнt Jul 14 at 9:19
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    take off = impersonate; take off = depart; have on = con; make out = discern; do in = murder; back up = reverse; back up = reverse; blow up = explode; blow up = enlarge. Variously transitive and/or intransitive MWVs. There are indeed many examples. // But do you mean 'Why are MWVs often preferred instead of simplex synonyms where they are available?' or 'Why are MWVs used at all where there are simplex synonyms?'? – Edwin Ashworth Jul 14 at 11:06
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We use a phrasal verb (e.g. put down to) instead of its single-word equivalent (attribute) for the same reason that we choose between any words with similar meanings (e.g. start/commence, lots of/numerous):

Namely, we choose the word to fit the context. Phrasal verbs are generally more appropriate than their single-word equivalents in informal contexts such as everyday conversation. You run the risk of sounding pompous or pretentious if you limit yourself to single-word verbs.

Furthermore, there are many phrasal verbs that do not have single-word equivalents. Here are a few examples:

  • We spent a week living it up in the luxury of the Intercontinental Hotel.
  • He was afraid the others might think he was showing off.
  • I wouldn't put it past you to hop on a plane.
  • The problem was how to sweat out the next six weeks.
  • He worked hard and was easy to get along with.

And in some cases the phrasal verb adds a layer of meaning that is not present in the single-word equivalent. For example:

  • What did you get up to (= do) while I was away?

The Collins Cobuild Dictionary Of Phrasal Verbs explains:

When you talk about what someone gets up to, you are referring to what they do, especially when it is something you do not approve of.


Note: All example sentences are from the Collins dictionary.

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