Phrasal verbs

I think that it’s probably not a quick question with an easy answer, so I decided to post it separately.
When reading articles or watching S4C I quite often come across phrasal verbs (the combination of a verb of movement + a preposition or several prepositions, like “cut down on” or “get through” or, well, “come across” etc). Sometimes they seem to be exactly the same as their English counterparts (torri lawr ar, rhedeg allan o). I can’t think of more examples now, but I’ve really come across a few of them.
Now, what I’m curious about is - I’ve always thought phrasal verbs are a feature of the English language alone. Have they always been there in Welsh as well? Or are they an English influence? If yes, how acceptable is it to use them? And are they a feature of the colloquial and informal language, or can they be used in written language as well? Thanks a lot to everyone who would care to answer.

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A couple of others at random: “Tyfu i fynu” (“grow up”); “disgyn i lawr” - “fall down”. (Both northern flavour I think).

It had never occurred to me that they might be anything but a natural and normal part of the language.

I googled and found this:
which seems to indicate that it’s a normal part of Welsh and other Brythonic languages.
However, and while I’ve only glanced briefly at the full article, it does seem to be suggested that the use of these has increased in the last couple of centuries, and this may be English influence.


Thank you,both for the examples (which I’m always in need of) and the article!

They don’t exist in Russian, nor in Italian or French, and I don’t think they exist in German, though I might have to consult my colleague who teaches German. So I’ve always assumed they were specifically English, and I was surprised to find them in Welsh, which is Celtic and, though closely linked to English, not of the same family…

I would imagine they’re often a matter of English influence - every now and again you’ll see people wince at one which hasn’t really bedded down yet, but in general terms they’re absolutely normal, and not something to worry about using… :sunny:


Thank you! Authenticity is something I’m always a bit concerned about, since I hardly ever hear real native Welsh.

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Well, I believe German has them and even not so little, but I just can’t remember any single example just right now. I believe Slovene have them too so English should not be so “lonely” in this … :slight_smile:

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Oh wow, that’s a surprise!

I think this is essentially true - and for that reason I am inclined also to think that parallel examples in Welsh are exactly that, i.e. influence of English. I am pretty sure you don’t get them in Middle Welsh, for example. No harm in using them, though, where they are established in ordinary natural speech.


I do not think they are true phrasal verbs, though Tatjana - they are simply compound verbs using preposition, which is different. The phrasal verbs are more idiomatic and less transparent, and often with multiple unrelated meanings - like set off, for example, meaning ‘start a journey’, or ‘detonate’, or ‘antagonise’.

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I’m still not sure. Might ask @brigitte about that tomorrow (if I’ll remember in flood of other things we always have in store for discussion). I’m slmost sure they have them at least in colloquial speach or dialects.

And I perfectly understand what is meant with “phrasal verbs”.

Maybe @Millie could say something about this subject in any language aswell. :slight_smile: - Greek for example?

Thank you!

Well, I asked my colleague, who’s an excellent teacher of German, and she says they don’t have them.

Well, let me ask @brigitte who is native German speaker anyway. I’m really curious now what she’d say.

Not that I doubt in all your opinions and sayings (to get things clear), but what native speaker has to say would really be interesting to know since we’re all not native German speakers or some of you don’t even speak German at all. (no offence please though, it was not meant this way.)

You can doubt what I say as much as you want to, Tatjana, I’m not even a linguist:)
Yes, a native speaker’s opinion would be interesting to hear.

What German has in great number, what Gareth referred to as compound verbs (edit: at least if he meant what I thought he meant), are also known as “separable verbs”, and are very much part of the standard language.

So take a verb like “stehen”, “to stand” and you find it has a variety of separable-verb versions which are formed by adding a prefix in the infinitive form, e.g.

“aufstehen” - “to get up”

However, when used normally (i.e. not in the infinitive or dictionary form) the prefix separates (hence “separable”). The prefix (in most cases) goes to the end of the clause or end of the sentence.

e.g. “Hans steht jeden Tag um 9.00 Uhr auf” = “Hans gets up every day at 9:00”.

To be honest though, German separable verbs can be a bit tricky, and I often get them wrong. I was almost going to use “umgehen” as an example, until I realised that it’s much more complicated than I had remembered. See here for example:

Very interesting, but in spite of the title of that blog, not actually all that easy for the non-native German speaker/learner to get one’s head around. (I haven’t put that in as a proper link, as when I tried, it seemed to do something clever, and just showed the cartoon, but it didn’t work as a proper link. You will have to copy and paste into your browser).

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Of course they have a lot of them, actually alsmot all verbs are like this especially when forming past perfect tense but I know about them and I didn’t have them in mind … Will tell you the rest tomorrow.

Does dod o hyd count? It’s just that I can’t think of an English literal translation for that, so the English influence on that phrasal verb in particular must be more obscure (if at all).

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Well, @Brigitte said in German there are some verbs which could be phrasal because (hmmm … I wanted to write down achos - Welsh influence obviously) they have no infinitive, but in grammar there officially are none. She also said that she don’t know how much are native speakers actually use them and yet, that these days people are more likely to use English version of such verbs though. So it might very well be we all were right in this matter.

Now I’ll leave you to Cymraeg further on. I’ve just promissed to “report” back and I usually keep my promisses. :slight_smile:

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Same in Dutch. I don’t see much difference between Welsh, English and other languages in this regard, apart from the fact that the spelling is different in the unconjugated form (aufstehen vs. ich stehe auf) in German.

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Well, @Brigitte brought “Sie kommt nach ihre Mutter” example which would mean something like “She’s like her mother” what surely isn’t what one would expect to mean and as such you can’t devide it and it in such meaning also don’t have infinitive.

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“She takes after her mother” in English

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