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English Phrasal Verbs

English phrasal verbs can be a stumbling block for language learners due to their versatility and numerous meanings. However, once you learn how to use them and understand their nuances, they become a powerful tool to express yourself fluently and naturally.

Phrasal verbs are expressions that consist of a verb combined with one or more prepositions or adverbs. The combination creates a new meaning that often differs from the literal interpretation of the individual words. Learning phrasal verbs is essential for effective communication, as they are widely used in everyday English.

English phrasal verbs

Here are some of the most common phrasal verbs in English:

  • Look forward to

To anticipate or be excited about something in the future

Example: I'm looking forward to our vacation next month.

  • Look after

To take care of or be responsible for someone or something


She looks after her younger siblings while their parents are at work.

My sister looks after my cat when I'm away.

  • Look up

To search for information or consult a reference source

Example: I'll look up that word in the dictionary.

  • Look out

To be cautious or watchful

Example: Look out! There's a car coming.

  • Look into

To investigate or examine something

Example: The police are looking into the matter.

  • Look for

To search or seek something or someone.

Example: She's looking for her keys.

  • Get on

- To make progress or have a good relationship with someone


They get on well with each other.

How are you getting on with your new project?

- To board or get onto a bus, train, aircraft, or boat

Example: We are getting on the next train.

  • Get along

- To have a harmonious relationship with someone

Example: Despite their differences, they managed to get along and work together.

- To make progress or manage a situation

Example: I'm getting along fine with my new job.

  • Get over

To recover from an illness, loss, or emotional setback

Example: It took her a long time to get over her breakup.

  • Get up

To rise or leave the bed in the morning

Example: I usually get up at 6 a.m. on weekdays.

  • Get by

To manage or survive with the available resources

Example: With his part-time job, he can just get by and pay the bills.

  • Get across

To successfully communicate or make something understood

Example: I struggled to get my point across during the presentation.

  • Settle down

To establish a stable and calm lifestyle or routine

Example: After years of travelling, she decided to settle down in a small town.

  • Turn on

To activate or start a device or switch

Example: Please turn on the lights in the living room.

  • Turn off

To deactivate or switch off a device or switch

Example: Don't forget to turn off the TV before leaving.

  • Turn up

- To arrive or appear, often unexpectedly

Example: He turned up at the party unannounced.

- To increase the volume or intensity

Example: Can you turn up the music a bit?

  • Turn down

To reject or refuse an offer or request

Example: She turned down the job offer because of the low salary.

  • Bring up

- To raise or mention a topic

Example: He brought up an important issue during the meeting.

- To raise and care for a child

Example: My grandparents brought me up after my parents passed away.

  • Bring in

To introduce or bring something or someone into a place or group

Example: The company brought in a new marketing strategy to increase sales.

  • Bring out

To reveal or make something more noticeable

Example: The new lighting brings out the beauty of the artwork.

  • Bring back

To cause something to be remembered or reintroduced

Example: This song brings back memories of my childhood.

  • Go out

To leave one's home for social activities or entertainment

Example: We often go out for dinner on weekends.

  • Run out of

To deplete or exhaust the supply of something

Example: We ran out of milk, so I need to buy some more.

  • Put up with

To tolerate or endure something unpleasant

Example: I don't know how she puts up with her noisy neighbours.

  • Put on

To wear or apply something to oneself

Example: She put on her favourite dress for the party.

  • Put off

- To postpone or delay something

Example: They decided to put off their vacation until next month.

- To discourage or cause someone to lose interest

Example: The bad weather put off many people from attending the outdoor event.

  • Put forward

To propose or suggest an idea or plan

Example: He put forward a new proposal during the meeting.

  • Put away

To clean up and store something in its proper place

Example: Don't forget to put away your toys after playing.

  • Take off

- To remove clothing or depart quickly


He took off his jacket before entering the room.

When he saw the police car, he took off in the other direction.

- To become airborne

Example: The plane took off on time for its scheduled flight.

  • Take on

- To accept or undertake a task or responsibility

Example: She decided to take on the challenging project.

- To employ or hire someone

Example: The company plans to take on new employees this year.

  • Take over

To assume control or responsibility

Example: The new manager will take over the project next week.

  • Give in

To yield or surrender

Example: After a long argument, he finally gave in and agreed to their demands.

  • Give up

To stop doing or pursuing something

Example: She gave up smoking last year.

  • Give off

To emit or release a smell, gas, or light

Example: The flowers give off a pleasant fragrance.

  • Come in

To enter or arrive at a place

Example: Please come in and make yourself comfortable.

  • Come across

To find or encounter something by chance

Example: I came across an interesting article while browsing the internet.

  • Call off

- To cancel or abandon something

Example: They had to call off the concert due to bad weather.

- To stop or halt an ongoing activity

Example: The referee called off the match due to a player's injury.

  • Set up

To arrange or establish something

Example: They set up a meeting to discuss the project.

  • Break in

To enter a building forcibly or unlawfully

Example: Someone broke in and stole our valuables.

  • Break through

To overcome an obstacle or barrier.

Example: After hours of brainstorming, they finally broke through and found a solution.

  • Break up

- To end a romantic relationship

Example: They decided to break up after three years of dating.

- To disperse or scatter

Example: The protesters started to break up as the rain poured down.

  • Break down

To stop working or functioning properly

Example: My car broke down on the way to work this morning.

  • Hold on

- To wait or remain on the line during a phone call

Example: Please hold on; I'll transfer you to the right department.

- To keep going in difficult situations or never give up

Example: Just keep holding on John, the project is almost over. We can finally go on holiday!

These examples cover a range of phrasal verbs that are commonly used in various contexts. Practise using them in conversations and written communication to enhance your understanding and fluency.

Remember, phrasal verbs can have different meanings in various contexts, so it's crucial to consider the surrounding words and the overall message being conveyed. By familiarising yourself with their different meanings and contexts, you can enhance your language skills and express yourself more effectively.



Separable Phrasal Verbs

Separable phrasal verbs are those where the verb and particle can be separated by a noun or pronoun. For example:

  • I picked up my friend at the airport. (particle "up" can be separated)

  • I picked my friend up at the airport.

Inseparable Phrasal Verbs

Inseparable phrasal verbs are those where the verb and particle cannot be separated. For example:

  • She always looks after her younger siblings. (particle "after" cannot be separated)

  • Incorrect: She always looks her younger siblings after.

Phrasal Verbs with Multiple Meanings

One of the challenging aspects of phrasal verbs is that a single verb combined with different particles can have multiple meanings. Consider the verb "take" and its various meanings:

  • Take off means to remove clothing, but it also means to depart suddenly.

  • Take on means to accept a challenge or responsibility, but it also means to employ or hire.

  • Take in means to understand, but it also means to deceive or trick.

Phrasal verbs are an extensive part of the English language, and there are numerous combinations and meanings. Remember to consider the specific meanings and usages of phrasal verbs in different situations to communicate effectively in English.

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