Date of Publication


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English Language Education Major in Second Language Teaching

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


Br. Andrew Gonzalez FSC College of Education


Dept of English and Applied Linguistics

Thesis Advisor

Shirley N. Dita

Defense Panel Chair

Sterling M. Plata

Defense Panel Member

Jennifer T. De Ramos
Jennibelle R. Ella


Quirk et. al (1985) defined multi-word verbs as “a verb followed by a morphologically invariable particle, which functions with the verb as a single grammatical unit”. There are three kinds of multi-word verbs- phrasal verbs (take off, clean up, get over), prepositional verbs (look for, base on, remind her), and phrasal-prepositional verbs (come up with, look forward to, get on with). Furthermore, multi-word verbs can be classified according to their separability (separable or non-separable), passivity (active or passive voice), and idiomaticity (free combination, semi-idiomatic, and highly idiomatic). Siyanova and Schmitt (2007) pointed out due to different possible combinations of verbs, adverbs, and particles, multi-word verbs seem to be one of the toughest lexical items that ESL learners need to learn and master.

A survey of textbooks used by high school students reveal that multi-word verbs are present and are commonly used by writers. Thus, this gives students a high exposure to these kinds of verb-adverb-particle combinations. However, upon examining the learning competencies in English found in the Curriculum Guide used by English teachers, it was found out that there were separate competencies on verbs and adverbs. However, there was no mention of learning competencies on the combination of verbs, adverbs, and particles in coming up with multi-word verbs.

It is in these premises that the researcher decided to explore the perceptions, perspectives, and preferences of language teachers in the use of multi-word verbs in their classroom. Also, the researcher explored how multi-word verbs were used by senior high school students in their academic papers. Lastly, the researcher investigated the innovations on the use of multi-word verbs as found in the learner corpus.

Fifty language teachers were asked to answer a 15-item questionnaire (adapted from Karamudin, 2013 & Girgin, 2011) via Google Forms and a Preference Test (adapted from Siyanova & Schmitt, 2007). Then, eight participants were chosen to join a focus group discussion to further talk about the topic. Using a pre-determined list of 69 multi-word verbs, these verb combinations were searched in their finite and non-finite forms with the help of the concordance program Antconc 3.5, which was created by Lawrence Anthony. The results of the search underwent manual weeding to check whether the combination functions as a verb.

Results of the questionnaire reveal that language teachers believe that prepositions must be introduced earlier in the English curriculum. They also strongly believe that students are not familiar with the kinds of multi-word verbs and must be taught to them to improve their English language skills. These statements were backed up by the focus group discussion. Language teachers purported that prepositions must be taught early to the students but with an increasing level of difficulty so as to promote mastery. Findings of the discussion also reveal that there are enough separate competencies on verbs and prepositions. However, there must be competencies that introduce students to the combination of these two grammatical items, since multi-word verbs are a barometer of proficiency and fluency in the language (Howarth, 1998, as cited in Liu, 2012). Lastly, the participants in the focus group discussion strongly believe that language teachers need a change of perspective in the learning and teaching of grammar and the language itself. Teachers must be trained properly with a new perspective about how the language works in real life.

Findings of the questionnaire and focus discussion paved way to some strategies that can be used in teaching multi-word verbs in the classroom. Aside from the explicit teaching of this grammatical item, text/context method, songs, and pictures can be used to maximize the mastery of multi-word verbs. It must be remembered that exposure to the language form in context will work best. Only then will our students be able to use grammatical items communicatively.

The corpus used in the study was included academic papers of senior high school students studying in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces. Among the 1,511,515 words in the corpus, there were 4741 occurrences of multi-word verbs. Phrasal verbs had 711 occurrences (finite- 383 and non-finite- 328). Prepositional verbs had 3836 hits (finite- 2628 and non-finite- 1208). Lastly, phrasal-prepositional verbs yielded 194 occurrences (finite- 116 and non-finite- 78). Of the 69 multi-word verbs searched in the corpus, 57 were found. As can be seen, prepositional verbs had the greatest number of occurrences compared to phrasal verbs and phrasal-prepositional verbs. This finding agrees with the findings of Biber et al. (1999), Zareva (2016), Theyerl, 2018, Ella (2019) and Divišová (2020).

The ten most frequently used multi-word verbs in the learner corpus are base on, refer to, serve as, contribute to, deal with, find out, look for, give NP to, make up, and come up with. Among the ten multi-word verbs, seven were prepositional verbs, two were phrasal verb, and only one was phrasal-prepositional verb.

The study also sought to look at the innovations in the use of multi-word verbs in the learner corpus. Ten prominent innovations were found in the learner corpus. Base from (115, base on), base in (13, base on), come on (4, come to), come up to (10, come up with), cope up with (91, cope with), make up (11, makeup/make-up), make up to (7, make up with), result to (187, result in), set up (27, setup/set-up), and spend in (68, spend on).

As for the pedagogical implications of this study, it seeks to convince the curriculum designers to include learning competencies on multi-word verbs in the Curriculum Guide since these are clearly evident in students’ academic papers. Also, the paper hopes to inspire researchers to come up with a list of multi-word verbs in the Philippine context and that list be used in the creation of instructional materials to help Filipino teachers and students improve their fluency in the language.

The results and findings of this present study thus recommend the following- that a larger corpus be built and used for a thicker description of multi-word verbs in the Philippine context and that curriculum designers, instructional materials writers, content area teachers, and even students can contribute to the perspectives, perceptions, and preferences on the use of multi-word verbs to make it more holistic and all-encompassing.

Keywords: Senior High School, Corpus Linguistics, Academic Writing, Philippine English

Abstract Format







English language—Verb phrase; English language—Written English—Philippines; English language—Study and teaching—Filipino speakers

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