The Most Frequently Used English Phrasal Verbs in American and British English: A Multicorpus Examination



    1. University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States
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    • Dilin Liu is Professor and Director of the Applied Linguistics/TESOL program at the University of Alabama. His main research interests include the learning and teaching of lexis and grammar, especially corpus-based description and learning of lexicogrammar.


This study uses the Corpus of Contemporary American English and the British National Corpus as data and Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad, and Finegan's (1999) and Gardner and Davies' (2007) informative studies as a starting point and reference. The study offers a cross-English variety and cross-register examination of the use of English phrasal verbs (PVs), one of the most difficult aspects of English for learners of English as a foreign language or English as a second language. The study first identified the frequency and usage patterns of the most common PVs in the two corpora and then analyzed the results using statistical procedures, the chi-square and dispersion tests, to determine any significant cross-variety or -register differences. Besides validating many of the findings of the two previous studies (although neither was a cross-English variety examination), the results of this study provide new, useful information about the use of PVs. In addition, the study resulted in a comprehensive list of the most common PVs in American and British English, one that complements those offered by the two previous studies with more necessary items and more detailed usage information. The study also presents a cross-register list of the most frequent PVs, showing in which register(s) each of the PVs is primarily used. Finally, pedagogical and research implications are discussed.