Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Teresa Dalle

Committee Member

Emily Thrush

Committee Member

Angela Thevenot

Committee Member

Verner Mitchell


Students of English as a second language (ESL) are often perplexed by English phrasal verbs (PVs) and must seek aid to understand the meanings of such phrases. Understanding an independent verb is simple, but the meaning of a verb can change depending on the context in which it is used as well as its object(s). In other words, since PVs using the same verb or particle do not correspond semantically, many English learners struggle with understanding some sentences. For example, when a preposition (as a particle) is used with a verb to form a PV, the meaning of the sentence could completely change. This transformation of meaning unfortunately leads to miscommunication and misinterpretation in many cases. Additionally, the amount of PVs in English only exacerbates the difficulty of learning vocabulary and contextual meanings, such as with the multiple interpretations of the PV put up.To examine this hypothesis, I collected data from 53 undergraduate native speakers of English as well as 60 Arabic-speaking Saudi undergraduate and graduate ESL learners. The sample utilized an objective test and a 20-question Likert-scale test. The Saudi ESL students were interviewed with semi-structured questions, and a demographic survey of all participants was also collected.The analysis showed that native English speakers were significantly more familiar with the given verbs and their meanings than Saudi ESL students were. According to the study, 78% of ESL students knew what get up meant and what type of phrase get up was, 73% had already studied PVs, 60% used PVs at least half the time, 67% did not feel that PVs caused a problem when they communicated with native English speakers, and 85% communicated with native English speakers at least once a week.The analysis of the 15 multiple-choice test questions adopted by Liao and Fukuya (2004) showed that the most common PVs chosen by participants were get up (88%), showed up (84%), brush up on (63%), let down (52%), hold on (83%), put out (75%), made up (96%), turn down (59%), run into (66%), show off (71%), go away (60%), take away (67%), and come in (63%), as well as the one-word exploded (50%) and surrender (54%). Statistical testing showed that native English speakers were significantly more likely to prefer using rise, went off, brush up on, put out, give in, turn down, run into, boast, remove, and come in than native Arabic speakers. Native Arabic speakers, in turn, were significantly more likely to prefer get up, improve, exploded, surrender, refuse, meet, show off, take away, and enter than native English speakers.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest