In academic writing, it is typically preferable to use single-word English or Latin-based verbs rather than multiword phrasal verbs (also known as compound verbs). Phrasal verbs can have various meanings depending on the context and are used often in everyday spoken language. Alternatively, in scholarly environments, English or Latin-based verbs are more appropriate because they are precise and specific. As a general rule, use English or Latin-based verbs instead of phrasal verbs in academic writing.
|English/Latin-based verbs||Phrasal verbs|
|verify||look up, check out|
|recover||get better, get something back|
|decide||make up one’s mind|
|identify||look out for|
|support||back someone (or something) up|
Phrasal verbs seem informal and tend to be less precise than English or Latin-based verbs because their meaning can change based on the context. Also, phrasal verbs often do not have a literal meaning. For example, the phrasal verb "to make up" can take on various meanings, but "to make something in a vertical way (up)" is not one of them.
See these examples of the various meanings of "make up":
Using a single-word English or Latin-based verb would be more specific and seem more formal and appropriate for academic writing:
Notice how many meanings the phrasal verb "make up" has, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Phrasal verbs tend to include a verb in combination with one or more prepositions (e.g., "of," "with," "for") or adverbs (e.g., "up," "across," "down"). An internet search or online dictionary search will often help in identifying phrasal verbs and any English or Latin-based verb alternatives.
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