Saturday, May 12, 2007

“To Cheat” or “To Cheat On”

If you’re a native-English speaker, you know the big difference between these two verbs (actually, one is more of a phrasal verb). That darn preposition“on” makes a big difference here!

He cheated on his wife.=He had sex (or went out) with another person.

He cheated on the test. Sort of = He looked at someone else's paper for the answers.

He cheated his wife and did not give her all her money. Sort of = He stole money from his wife.

So if I say "cheat on someone," it means to have sex (or go out) with another person. If I say "cheat someone," it means, essentially, to "steal" something from them. If I say "cheat on something," it means, essentially, "to do something wrong."

Teaching phrasal verbs to ESL students is essential. But there are so many! Some of the more simple, everyday phrasal verbs are things like “pick up,” “take off,” “look after,” etc. If ESL speakers make mistakes with these verbs, it may not be as serious as making a mistake with “cheat on!”


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