The Lexical Knowledge and Avoidance of Phrasal Verbs: The Case of Egyptian Learners of English

Dina Abdel Salam El-Dakhs


Recent studies in different parts of the world have highlighted that phrasal verbs constitute a learning difficulty for English language learners despite their confirmed significance and high productivity in English. Proposed explanations include cross-linguistic differences, the complex nature of phrasal verbs, low language proficiency and psychological factors. The present study examines this difficulty among an Arabic-speaking population of Egyptian undergraduates in a foreign language context. To this end, a total of 407 Egyptian undergraduates in a private English-medium university completed a paraphrase task, two gap-filling tasks and a survey. The results confirm the difficulty highlighted in earlier studies, particularly at the production level. The results also show that the under-representation of phrasal verbs in the participants’ production can be interpreted in terms of cross-linguistic differences, passive learning for comprehension and limited language exposure. The study thus supports a multi-faceted model for the explanation of the limited use of phrasal verbs by English language learners, and calls for a revision of the English language teaching programs in Egypt. 


Phrasal verbs, lexical knowledge, avoidance, vocabulary studies, contrastive linguistics

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