Posted by Grant Richardson, 26th July, 2015
For every phrasal verb, there is normally an equivalent one-word verb.
For example, “take in” = “receive” (into the mind) as in:
“He’s teaching so fast, I can’t take everything in!”
Native English speaker children start using phrasal verbs from when they first learn to speak, and often before they learn the equivalent one-word verb.
In contrast, learners of English as a foreign language often learn the one-word verbs before they learn the equivalent phrasal verbs.
Therefore, if a learner of English (of intermediate level or lower) were speaking with a native English speaker child, there is a good chance that both will not understand each other a lot of the time, even though they might both be speaking English correctly.
Phrasal verbs normally sound less formal than their one-word verb counterparts.
One-word verbs are generally preferred in academic writing (such as in IELTS Writing Test Task 2), or other types of formal writing.
Phrasal verbs are typically used in informal messages (written or spoken) to friends and family (including letters in IELTS General Training Test Task 1 addressed to a friend).