A corpus study on phrasal verb use in the academic writing of published authors, native English-speaking students, and Taiwanese EFL learners

Hao-Jan Chen, Christine Ting Yu Yang, Ivan Feng Fan Wei, Abby Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study explored Taiwanese EFL learners' use of phrasal verbs (PVs) in comparison with published authors' and native Englishspeaking students' in the field of applied linguistics. A corpus of Taiwanese graduate students' master's theses, a corpus of published journal articles, and a corpus of native English-speaking graduate students' master's theses were compiled and analyzed to reveal these writers' PV uses. The findings showed that the Taiwanese EFL learners used PVs significantly more often than the other two groups. However, the learners also used a more restricted set of PVs in their writing. This study also identified eight PVs commonly used by these writers. Among these common PVs, two of them (i.e., point out and come up) were overused by the learners, while two (i.e., carry out and take on) were underused. Learners' overuse of point out might result from L1 influences, and their overuse of come up was caused by miscollocating this PV with inappropriate noun phrases. The underuse of carry out might result from its non-literal meaning and learners' over-reliance on using its synonymous one-word verb (i.e., conduct), and the underuse of take on might result from the semantic opaqueness of this PV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-91
Number of pages29
JournalEnglish Teaching and Learning
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jan 1



  • English for academic purposes
  • Phrasal verbs
  • Written academic English

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

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