One of the choices available in English is between one-word verbs (train at the gym) and their multi-word counterparts (work out at the gym). Multi-word verbs tend to be colloquial in tone and are a particular feature of informal spoken discourse. Previous research suggests that English learners often have problems with multi-word verbs, and may even avoid their use. This study explores this issue further by comparing the likelihood of using multi-word vs. one-word verbs by both native speakers and advanced nonnatives. A questionnaire of 26 multi-word/one-word verb pairs showed that nonnatives were less likely to use multi-word verbs than native speakers in informal spoken contexts. Moreover, the amount of exposure to native-speaking environments did not have an effect on the likelihood of using the multi-word verbs. However, a corpus analysis of the same verb pairs showed that the one-word verbs are often more frequent in both written and spoken discourse.
© Walter de Gruyter