Phrasal verbs 4

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Understanding what phrasal verbs mean

When you use phrasal verbs in Polish, the prefix you add to the verb often has a similar meaning and changes the verb in the same, or a similar, way.

The same thing is often true with English phrasal verbs and it can then be quite easy to understand what the phrasal verb means.

go (walk) – chodzić
go outwychodzić
go awayodchodzić

go (drive) – jeździć
go outwyjeżdżać
go awayodjeżdżać

This can even be true when more particles are added to the verb to make the meaning more specific.

go out with (somebody) – wychodzić z (kimś)

Sometimes the translation isn’t exactly the same, but you can probably still guess the meaning.

run away (dosłownie – biec od/z) translates as uciec
run away with (somebody) – uciec z (kimś)
run away from – odbiegnąć

take away (dosłownie – wziąć od) translates as odjąć

However, sometimes it isn’t easy, or can even be impossible, to guess the meaning of a phrasal verb. This is also the same in Polish.

take after (somebody) (dosłownie – wziąć po) actually translates as być podobnym do (kogoś)

How does baczyć plus ‚away’ become wybaczyć, the meanings are completely different.

With those phrasal verbs where the meaning isn’t obvious, you will simply have to learn the verb and its meaning.

One reason why phrasal verbs can have so many different meanings is that the meanings can be literal (dosłowny) or metaphoric (metaforyczny). This is also the same in Polish.

The dog dug up a bone. – Pies wygrzebał kość. (literal)

I finally dug up the truth. – W końcu, dokopałem się prawdy. (metaphoric)

Phrasal verbs can also have a different meaning depending on whether the object is a thing or a person. Sometimes you can see that the different meanings are quite similar, even if you need yet another verb for the Polish translation.

take something out (dosłownie – wziąć na zewnątrz) translates as wyjąć coś

take somebody out translates as zabrać kogoś or wyjść z kimś

Sometimes the change in meanings can be a little more abstract, but you might still understand how the verb got this meaning.

take something out wyjąć coś

take somebody out – can mean zabrać kogoś but it can also mean zabić or zlikwidować kogoś

If we can use the phrasal verb take out to mean zabić, then why can’t we use it in a similar way for things as well, to mean destroy?

take something out zniszczyć coś

A lot of people ask why phrasal verbs have so many meanings, but this is really just because Polish has so many different ‚phrasal’ verbs to describe even quite small differences in meaning.

From an English point of view I would ask why Polish makes you learn so many verbs when you could use only a few!