Phrasal Verbs Machine

App review by
Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Media
Phrasal Verbs Machine App Poster Image
Tricky-phrases app helpful for English language learners.

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The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn how to use phrasal verbs, the multiple-word grammatical constructions that are notoriously tough for nonnative speakers and a challenge for many native speakers. This app features brief animations to illustrate common phrasal verbs such as "move on" and "stay up." Each animation features the Amazing Phraso, a mustachioed Victorian-era circus performer who "looks for" his glasses, "lines up" tickets, and "meets up" with a friend. Kids can learn about phrasal verbs through reading detailed instructions, exploring definitions in "Phrasal Verb View," or choosing the right construction from a list in the exercises section. Although Phrasal Verbs Machine lends itself to a drill-and-kill style of repetition, its appealing animations and extensive explanatory text make it a solid choice for boosting vocabulary.

Ease of Play

The animations' Victorian-era visual style is appealing. However, the wood-grain look of the interface surrounding the animations suggests that there are more buttons and options than there really are. It's not immediately clear how to toggle among different sections of the app.


"Shut up" is included as a phrasal verb, and the British English phrases "make out" (meaning "to succeed") and "get on" (meaning "get along") are included. The American English definitions of these two phrases are more titillating and might evoke some laughs from older kids.


A "more apps" link on the menu screen takes you to the app store.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Phrasal Verbs Machine is an easy-to-use look at phrasal verbs, such as "join in," "put on," and "polish off." The Exercises, Phrasal Verb View, and Instructions sections all focus on teaching kids about these grammatical constructions. Animations are simple and family-friendly, and there are lots of ways to view and review each word to solidify understanding. Several language options are available, making this a good app for English language learners (ELL) as well as students who are native English speakers but less-confident readers.

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What's it about?

PHRASAL VERBS MACHINE helps kids learn about the formation of multi-word grammatical constructions called "phrasal verbs." Kids can explore these constructions in general through the instructions section, in detail through a glossary called Phrasal Verbs View, and in short quizzes through the exercises section. Each phrasal verb is explained through a brief animation featuring the Amazing Phraso, the app's main character.

Is it any good?

There's a lot to love in Phrasal Verbs Machine. Animations are speedy and fun, and kids are drawn into matching the right phrasal verb to each animated short. There are great options for nonnative English speakers to view the constructions side by side with a translation to another language. Animations can be replayed with a tap, allowing kids to explore each phrase deeply. It's visually helpful to toggle among the prepositions that can connect with each verb, allowing kids to see how a small word can make a big difference in meaning. Phrasal Verbs Machine is a great choice for kids who need some practice in pairing the right verb with the right preposition in these multi-word phrases. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how flipping to a different preposition can make a verb take on a vastly different meaning.

  • Parents might also sit with kids as they move through the exercise section, helping them talk through what they're seeing in the animation and which phrasal verb is the best choice to describe that animation. 

App details

  • Devices: iPad, Android
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: letter or word recognition, reading comprehension, vocabulary
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, deduction, making conclusions, thinking critically
  • Price: Free
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Release date: February 11, 2014
  • Category: Education
  • Size: 67.40 MB
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Version: 2.0
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 4.3 or later; Android 2.2 and up
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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