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I love metaphors. They lend themselves to imagery and they are endlessly creative. And they form much of what is creative and beautiful in language, including phrasal verbs.

Interestingly, it was assumed in the past that metaphor was solely a literary device. Lakoff & Johnson, in their book "Metaphors We Live By," showed that metaphor is foundational to language.

Metaphors provide a bridge between physical experience (ex. rising to one's feet) and abstract experiences (ex. taking a stand against opposition).

Understanding common metaphors in language can be a powerful tool for helping students grasp and retain idiomatic language (Boers, 2000 & 2003). They can provide a conceptual framework for grouping and categorizing expressions, and a pathway for learners to predict the meaning of new phrasal verbs.

Images are an ideal way to highlight such metaphors:

Ideas shared from the mind are objects (the ideas) emerging from a container (the mind).

Throw out ideas; blow up at someone; out of my mind; bounce an idea off of someone; put ideas into someone's head etc.

Time is a surface that we can travel on.

Time goes by or flies; on time; and many phrasal verbs with ON: run on, go on, pass on, move on etc.

Completion is UP.

End up, finish up, clean up, give up. Time's up. She up and left.

But be careful - some metaphors are constant in all languages and cultures because they are undergirded by physical experience, but others are culture specific. So, all people experience hunger, sickness, change, and emotion. But only cultures with computers would speak of the mind in terms of a "database." Or, in this case, a stomach that uploads food!

For those seeking to understand and teach phrasal verbs, take note that the particles have metaphors coded within them. Understand the metaphor in the particle = understand the phrasal verb. Well, I suppose it's not quite that simple. Most particles code for more than one metaphor, so they key is to figure out: which metaphor is it?

Here's a nice starter list of some particles and their metaphors put together by Dr. Ganji in 2011:

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