Once you have looked up the meaning of a phrasal verb, you will usually remember it when you see it again.  For example, to put up with something means to tolerate it.  You might read this and look it up in the dictionary and the next time you see it, you’ll remember what it means from the context.  But the difficult part is remembering all of the parts when you want to use it.

The best thing to do is to take an example sentence from Using English or a dictionary and write it in your notebook with the particles removed (put the particles on a separate page or somewhere you can hide them).  Here is the example sentence from Using English: I can’t put _____ _____ my neighbour’s noise any longer; it’s driving me mad.  The context is clear from the sentence so after practicing a few times the meaning will be clear.  Now, here comes the important part.

Make it personal!

Don’t just use the example sentence as it is–change it so that it is personally relevant to you.  What does your neighbour do that you can’t put up with?  Play loud music?  Have a dog that barks all the time?  Park their car in your place?  Cook smelly food?  Make a mess in your building?  Put that in the sentence.  Or make it about your roommate or a family member.

When you make your examples personal, you give your brain something to connect this word to, rather than trying to search through hundreds of combinations of prepositions.  Our brains have an incredible ability to make these connections.  Do you ever smell certain foods that trigger memories?  Or the smell of the ocean or fresh grass in the summer?  You want to create a connection for your vocabulary too so instead of thinking “put… up for? away with? in to? out of?  on to?”  you can think of your neighbour, their barking dog, and say “I can’t put up with my neighbour’s barking dog any longer!  It’s driving me mad!”

Where to start

Take the phrasal verbs you find as you read, or in lists from your textbook and add them to your Anki deck as you find new ones (read my next post about Anki and practising phrasal verbs).  Remember to put them in context, make them personal and practice, practice, practice!