Avoidance of Phrasal Verbs: The Case of Chinese Learners of English


  • Yan Liao, University Library; Yoshinori J. Fukuya, Department of Second Language Studies.

  • We would like to thank Craig Chaudron, Kate Wolfe-Quintero, and four anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments on an earlier version of this article, and Shuqiang Zhang and Ginger Carey for their advice and assistance in data analysis. Any errors or omissions are ours.

Yoshinori J. Fukuya, Department of Second Language Studies, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, 1890 East-West Road, Honolulu, HI 96822. Internet: yfukuya@hawaii.edu


This study investigates the avoidance of English phrasal verbs by Chinese learners. Six groups of Chinese learners (intermediate and advanced; a total of 70) took one of 3 tests (multiple-choice, translation, or recall), which included literal and figurative phrasal verbs, while 15 native speakers took the multiple-choice test. The results show that 3 factors (proficiency level, phrasal- verb type, and test type) affect learners’ avoidance of phrasal verbs. The authors speculate that the differences between first and second languages and the semantic difficulty of phrasal verbs may be reasons for the learners’ avoidance. Incorporating the findings of 3 previous studies, this study claims that learners’ phrasal-verb avoidance behavior is a manifestation of interlanguage development.