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English Grammar
Tenses

Phrasal Verbs

Do you ever feel confused by the characteristics of the English language, especially those puzzling phrasal verbs like “break up,” “take off,” or “run into”? If you do, you are in good company! Phrasal verbs can be quite baffling, but don’t worry. In this blog post, we will expose them and help you gain the skills and self assurance to use them with ease.

What Are Phrasal Verbs?

Phrasal verbs are a specific feature of the English language. They are made up of a main verb and one or more particles, which can be either prepositions or adverbs. The combination of these elements creates a single, often idiomatic, unit of meaning. The particle can change the meaning of the main verb, giving phrasal verbs unique meanings that may not be evident by looking at the individual words.

Transitive Phrasal Verbs

Transitive phrasal verbs are a type of multi-word verb in English that consists of a main verb and one or more particles (typically prepositions or adverbs). These verbs are called “transitive” because they require a direct object to complete their meaning. In other words, they involve an action that is done to someone or something.

Here’s the structure of a transitive phrasal verb:

[Main Verb] + [Particle(s)] + [Direct Object]

For example, consider the transitive phrasal verb “take off.” In this case:

Main Verb: “take”
Particle: “off”

You need to include a direct object to make the sentence complete:

He took off his jacket.
She took off the glasses.

Intransitive Phrasal Verbs

Intransitive phrasal verbs are another category of multi-word verbs in English, but unlike transitive phrasal verbs, they do not require a direct object to complete their meaning. Instead, they express an action, state, or occurrence without the need for a direct object.

Here’s the structure of an intransitive phrasal verb:

[Main Verb] + [Particle(s)]

Here are a few examples of intransitive phrasal verbs:

I woke up early this morning.
We ran out of milk, so I need to buy some more.
The car broke down on the highway.
She promised to show up at the party, but she never did.

Separable Phrasal Verbs

Separable phrasal verbs are a type of multi-word verb in English where the particle (typically a preposition or an adverb) can be separated from the main verb by the direct object. This means you can place the direct object between the main verb and the particle.

Here’s the typical structure of a separable phrasal verb:

[Main Verb] + [Direct Object] + [Particle]

For example, consider the separable phrasal verb “take off”:

Main Verb: “take”
Particle: “off”

You can separate the particle and the main verb by placing the direct object between them:

She took her coat off.

Here are a few examples of separable phrasal verbs:

He turned the lights on.
Please put your books away.
I’ll pick you up at the airport.

Inseparable Phrasal Verbs

Inseparable phrasal verbs are a type of multi-word verb in English where the particle (typically a preposition or an adverb) cannot be separated from the main verb by the direct object. Unlike separable phrasal verbs, you cannot place the direct object between the main verb and the particle. The particle always stays attached to the main verb.

Here’s the typical structure of an inseparable phrasal verb:

[Main Verb] + [Particle] + [Direct Object]

For example, consider the inseparable phrasal verb “look after”:

Main Verb: “look”
Particle: “after”

In this case, you cannot separate the main verb and particle with the direct object:

She looked after her younger brother.

Here are a few more examples of inseparable phrasal verbs:

I ran into my old friend at the mall.
He always stands up for what he believes in.
I get along with my coworkers.

Phrasal Verbs List

Phrasal VerbMeaningExample
Back downTo stop demanding something.Tom asked for extra dessert, but when his mom said no, he quickly backed down and said it was okay.
Back upTo support or reinforce.The research findings were backed up by multiple credible sources.
Blow upTo explode or inflate.When they punctured the balloon, it blew up in a burst of confetti.
Break downTo stop working.On their way to the picnic, the old car suddenly broke down, and they had to call for help.
Break upTo end; to separate.After many disagreements, Sarah and John decided to break up and go their separate ways.
Bring upTo mention or raise.During the meeting, she decided to bring up the idea of expanding the company's product line.
Brush upTo improve or refresh.Before the language proficiency test, I need to brush up on my French vocabulary.
Bump intoTo meet someone unexpectedly.I didn't expect to see my old friend at the grocery store, but I bumped into her in the produce aisle.
Build upTo increase or accumulate.Over the years, they managed to build up a substantial savings fund for their retirement.
BurnoutTo exhaust or lose energy.After months of working overtime, she finally experienced burnout and needed a break.
Call forTo demand/request.The workers decided to go on strike to call for better wages and improved working conditions.
Call offTo cancel.The outdoor concert was called off due to the sudden rainstorm.
Carry onTo continue.After a short break, the teacher asked the students to carry on with their reading assignments.
Catch onTo become popular or understand.At first, the new dance move seemed strange, but soon everyone started to catch on and join in.
Cheer upTo make happierAfter a tough day at work, Sarah's friend tried to cheer her up by telling funny jokes and bringing her favorite snacks.
Calm downTo become less upset or angry.It took some time for him to calm down after the intense argument with his colleague.
Clear upTo explain or resolve.The investigator was called in to clear up the mystery surrounding the missing documents.
Close downTo shut or discontinue.Due to a decline in sales, they had to make the difficult decision to close down the local branch.
Come acrossTo find it by chance.While hiking in the woods, I came across an old, abandoned cabin hidden among the trees.
Come backTo return or reply.She promised to come back with a detailed response to their inquiry by the end of the week.
Come inTo enter or arrive.As the meeting started, attendees began to come in, finding their seats.
Come outTo be revealed or published.The long-awaited report on the environmental impact of the project finally came out, causing widespread discussion.
Come roundTo come to your house.I haven't seen Emma in a while, so I invited her to come round for coffee this weekend.
Come up withThink of and suggest an idea.During the brainstorming session, Mark was able to come up with a creative solution to the problem.
Come upBe mentioned, arise or appear.During the meeting, an unexpected issue came up that required immediate attention from the team.
Count onTo rely or depend on.You can always count on our dedicated team to meet project deadlines.
Cut backTo reduce or decrease.To conserve energy, they decided to cut back on the use of air conditioning in the office.
Cut down onReduce the amount you consume.After realizing the health risks, Jane decided to cut down on her sugar intake and started choosing healthier snacks.
Cut offSeparate / isolate / interrupt.I was in the middle of explaining the plan when the phone call cut me off abruptly.
Cut outStop doing / eating something.After years of smoking, Jack decided it was time to improve his health, so he cut out cigarettes completely.
Die downTo decrease or fade.After the exciting news settled in, the buzz in the room began to die down.
Die offBecome extinct.The rare species of orchid started to die off due to habitat destruction.
Die outBecome extinct or disappear.With the changing climate, some experts believe that certain polar bear populations may die out.
Dig inStart eating greedily.After a long hike, they were so hungry that they dug in as soon as the meal was served.
Dig intoReach inside to get something.She dug into her bag and pulled out her passport before heading to the airport.
Do upFasten, button up clothes; repair, redecorate or modernize a building or room.It was chilly outside, so Maria did up her coat and buttoned it tightly to stay warm.
Dress upPut on different clothes in order to disguise yourself.At the costume party, everyone was encouraged to dress up, and Sarah came as a mysterious detective in a trench coat and hat.
Drop byTo visit informally or unexpectedly.While I was working on a project at home, my friend decided to drop by with some snacks to keep me company.
Drop offTo take something (or someone) to a place and leave it there.I'll drop off the package at the post office on my way to work tomorrow morning.
Drop outStop taking part in (a competition, a university, etc.)After struggling with the demanding course load, Mark decided to drop out of college and pursue a different path.
Drop byTo visit briefly.If you have time, feel free to drop by my art exhibition this evening.
Drop offTo leave or decrease.The energy levels of the audience started to drop off as the lecture went on for hours.
End upAn end result of something planned or unplanned.After getting lost in the city, we took random turns and ended up discovering a charming little café we had never seen before.
Fall forFall in love with.Despite their differences, Jane couldn't help but fall for Tom's sense of humor and kindness.
Fall out withArgue and stop being friendly with someone.After a disagreement over their project, Sarah and Mark fell out with each other and stopped talking for weeks.
Follow upFind out more about something; take further action.After the initial meeting, the sales representative made sure to follow up with the client to address any questions and provide additional information.
Fill inTo complete or replace.Can you fill in for our receptionist while she's on her lunch break?
Find outTo discover or learn.We need to find out more about the market trends before launching our new product.
Get along withHave a good relationship with.Despite their differences, Lisa and her roommate get along with each other really well, sharing laughs and supporting one another.
Get awayGo away for a period of time for a break.After a busy week at work, Sarah decided to get away for the weekend and relax at a quiet beach resort.
Get away withTo escape or avoid punishment.The clever thief managed to get away with the heist, leaving no evidence behind.
Get byManage to survive / live.Even though times were tough, the family found ways to get by, relying on each other for support and making the most of what they had.
Get on with (someone)Have a good relationship with.Despite their initial differences, Jack and his new colleague quickly found common ground and began to get on with each other, making the work environment more enjoyable.
Get on with (something)Start or continue doing something (especially work).After the meeting, we need to get on with the project and meet the upcoming deadline.
Get over (someone)Recover after the end of a relationship with someone.It took a while, but eventually, Emily was able to get over her ex-boyfriend and focus on her own happiness.
Get over (something)Recover from.After a few days of rest and medication, Tom was able to get over the flu and return to his normal routine.
Get togetherMeet.After a long time apart, the friends decided to get together for a reunion dinner and catch up on each other's lives.
Get rid ofEliminate.To create more space in the living room, Sarah decided to get rid of old furniture that was no longer needed.
Get throughTo pass or survive.With hard work and determination, you'll get through the challenges life throws at you.
Give away (secrets)Reveal.During the surprise party planning, Sarah almost gave away the secrets by accidentally mentioning the decorations to the birthday person.
Give backReturn.After borrowing a book from her friend, Emily made sure to give it back the following week
Give inTo surrender or yield.After a lengthy negotiation, the union and management finally gave in and reached an agreement.
Give off (a smell)Produce and send into the air.The flowers in the garden give off a sweet fragrance, filling the air with a pleasant scent.
Give out (information)Announce or broadcast information.The school administration will give out information about the upcoming event through the announcement system and posters around the campus.
Give outTo distribute or exhaust.At the event, volunteers gave out brochures and pamphlets to inform attendees.
Give upTo stop trying to do something.After facing numerous challenges, Jane felt tempted to give up on her dream, but her determination kept her going.
Go along withSupport an idea or agree with someone’s opinion.When the team proposed a new strategy, most members were willing to go along with it because they saw the potential benefits.
Go offExplode; become bad (food).Be sure to check the expiration date; you don't want to eat anything that has gone off and may cause food poisoning.
Go onTo continue.After a brief pause, the speaker encouraged the audience to be patient and assured them that the presentation would go on shortly.
Go out withHave a romantic relationship with someone.After being friends for years, Mark finally gathered the courage to ask Sarah if she would like to go out with him, and she happily agreed.
Go through withComplete a promise or plan.Despite facing challenges along the way, Sarah decided to go through with her plan to start her own business and successfully launched it last month.
Grow apartGet distant from someone, like a friendAs they went to different colleges and pursued separate interests, Sarah and Lisa gradually grew apart, but they still cherished the memories of their close friendship.
Grow upSlowly become an adult.As a child, Jake was fascinated by superheroes, and now that he has grown up, he still finds inspiration in their stories, but in a more mature way.
Hand inTo submit or deliver.Students are required to hand in their research papers by the end of the semester.
Hand outTo distribute to a group of people, usually free.The teacher decided to hand out copies of the assignment to the students before the class began.
Hang aroundTo wait or spend time somewhere, doing nothing.While waiting for the bus, the kids decided to hang around the park and play games to pass the time.
Hang outSpend time relaxing .After a busy week, Lisa and her friends decided to hang out at the local cafe, enjoying coffee and good conversation.
Hang upTo hang clothes or an object on a hook or line; to end a phone call.As soon as they finished discussing the project, Mark decided to politely hang up the phone and get back to work.
Head forGo towards.After leaving the hotel, they decided to head for the beach to enjoy the sunset.
Hold backPrevent someone from making progress.Despite facing challenges, she refused to let anything hold her back from achieving her goals.
Hurry upDo something more quickly.We need to hurry up if we want to catch the train that leaves in 10 minutes.
Hit onTo have an idea.During the brainstorming session, she hit on a brilliant concept that could revolutionize the industry.
Hold onTo wait or cling.Please hold on for a moment; I'll be right back with the information you need.
Keep onTo continue.Despite facing setbacks, she decided to keep on working towards her dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Keep up withTo maintain pace or progress with.In the ever-evolving field of technology, it's a challenge to keep up with the latest advancements.
Let downTo disappoint or fail.The team was let down by their star player's unexpected absence during the championship match.
Let offGive someone a lighter punishment than they expected.Due to the defendant's remorse and cooperation, the judge decided to let him off with a warning instead of a harsher penalty.
Line upArrange events for someone.The event coordinator has lined up a series of exciting activities for the weekend retreat.
Link upConnect, join.The new high-speed rail network will link up major cities, making travel more convenient.
Live byFollow a belief system to guide your behavior.Despite the challenges, she continues to live by the principles of integrity and honesty.
Live downStop being embarrassed about something.After his unfortunate public blunder, he worked hard to live it down and regain his reputation.
Live withAccept something unpleasant.Managing a chronic illness can be challenging, but she's learned to live with it and maintain a positive attitude.
Log inEnter a restricted area on a computer system.I had trouble remembering my username, so I couldn't log in to my email account.
Log intoEnter a restricted area of a computer system.She logged into the company's secure database to access confidential project information.
Log offExit a computer system.At the end of the workday, she made sure to log off from her computer to protect sensitive data.
Log onEnter a computer system.After entering her credentials, she successfully logged on to the university's student portal.
Log outExit a computer system.Danny finished his work, closed all programs, and responsibly logged out before leaving the office.
Look afterTo take care of or tend to.While I'm on vacation, could you look after my plants and water them regularly?
Look down onFeel superior to.Despite their humble background, Sarah worked hard to achieve her goals and never let others' attempts to look down on her affect her confidence.
Look forTry to find.I need to look for my keys; I can't remember where I last saw them.
Look forward toFeel happy about something that is going to happen.After months of planning, the family was looking forward to their vacation in the mountains.
Look intoTo investigate or examine.The regulatory authority will look into the allegations of environmental violations by the company.
Look upTo search or consult.To understand the unfamiliar term, I needed to look up its definition in the dictionary.
Look up toAdmire and respect.As a young musician, Sarah always looked up to her favorite guitarist and hoped to emulate their skill and passion for music.
Make upTo reconcile or create.After their argument, they decided to make up and restore their friendship.
Make up forCompensate for.After missing the family dinner, John tried to make up for it by cooking a special meal for everyone the next day.
Make up with (someone)Become friends again.After their disagreement, Jane and Lisa decided to talk things out and make up with each other, realizing the importance of their friendship.
Move onChange to a different job, activity or place.After working at the company for several years, Tom felt it was time to move on and explore new opportunities in his career.
Move outStop living in a house or flat.After finishing college, Sarah decided to move out of her dormitory and find her own apartment in the city.
Pass outTo faint or distribute.The intense heat at the outdoor event caused several attendees to pass out and required medical attention.
Pay backReturn money.After borrowing some money from her friend, Lisa made sure to pay it back as soon as she received her paycheck.
Pay forPurchase.After browsing the bookstore for hours, Sarah finally decided to pay for the novel she had been eyeing.
Pay offFinish paying for something; have a positive result from hard work.The long hours and dedication to the project finally paid off when the team received recognition for their outstanding work.
Pick atTo eat slowly.Rather than finishing her meal quickly, Emily preferred to pick at her food, savoring each bite.
Pick offTo remove.The gardener carefully picked off the dead leaves from the plant to promote healthy growth.
Pick onTo bully or to single one person out.During high school, Jack was often picked on by some classmates because of his unique interests, but he remained true to himself.
Pick upTo collect or improve.Can you pick up some fresh flowers on your way home from the florist?
Pick up onTo become aware of something.She was so shy that I didn't pick up on her feelings for me until she finally confessed.
Pick outTo choose something.He picked out the ripest fruit from the basket.
Point outTo draw attention to something or someone.The tour guide pointed out all the landmarks in the city.
Put awayPut something back in the correct place.I'll put away the dishes once we're done eating.
Put offTo delay or postpone.Due to unforeseen circumstances, the company had to put off the product launch until next month.
Put on (an event/a show)Organize an event.The company is putting on a conference next year.
Put on (clothes /make up)Place something on your body.She put on some lipstick before going out.
Put on (weight)Increase (weight).I've been trying to put on some weight lately.
Put outExtinguish (e.g. fire).The firefighters quickly put out the house fire.
Put up (for the night)Accommodate.The homeless shelter was able to put up the family for the night.
Put togetherTo assemble or gather.The team collaborated to put together a comprehensive report on market research findings.
Put up withTo tolerate or endure.She couldn't put up with her colleague's constant interruptions during meetings any longer.
Read throughTo read thoroughly or carefully.Before the interview, I'll read through the candidate's resume to prepare better.
Rip offCharge someone too much for somethingThat store is notorious for ripping off tourists. They charge way too much for their souvenirs.
Run intoTo encounter or bump into.While shopping, I unexpectedly ran into my former college professor at the mall.
Run out ofTo deplete or exhaust.We ran out of printer ink, so we'll need to purchase more before finishing the project.
Set offTo start or trigger.The alarm system was set off by a sudden increase in carbon monoxide levels.
Set upEstablish / start (e.g. a company).She set up her own business after working for several years in corporate finance.
Show upTo appear or arrive.Despite the terrible weather, she showed up at the charity event to support the cause.
Show offTry to impress people by telling or showing them what you are capable of.The musician was a natural performer and loved to show off his skills on stage.
Shut downTo close.The restaurant is shutting down for renovations.
Sort outArrange or order by classes or categories; find a solution.The company is trying to sort out its finances.
Stand forTo represent.The letters "USA" stand for the United States of America.
Stand outBe easy to see because of being different.The sunflowers stood out from the green grass.
Slow downTo decrease speed or pace.On the icy roads, it's crucial to slow down and drive cautiously for safety.
Speak upTo speak louder or assertively.Please speak up during the presentation so everyone in the back can hear your insights.
Stand upTo rise from a seated position.At the commencement ceremony, all the graduates stood up when their names were called.
Take afterTo resemble or inherit traits from.He takes after his grandfather with his strong work ethic and determination.
Take offTo depart or remove.The aircraft is ready to take off for its scheduled flight to a tropical destination.
Take onAttempt something new; employ.The company is taking on a new project to develop a new product.
Take overTo assume control or responsibility.After the CEO's retirement, she took over the leadership of the company.
Take toStart to like, especially after only a short time.She took to the new job and was quickly promoted.
Take upStart doing.He took up painting as a way to relax after work.
Tell offSpeak angrily to someone who has done something wrong.The teacher told off the student for talking in class.
Throw awayGet rid of something you do not need any more.I'm going to throw away this broken toy.
Think overTo consider or ponder.Before making a major life decision, it's essential to think it over carefully and weigh the pros and cons.
Toss upTo make a decision through chance.Unable to choose a restaurant, they decided to toss up a coin to determine where to dine.
Turn backReturn towards the place you started from.The car broke down, and we had to turn back.
Turn downReject or refuse.The company turned down our application for a loan.
Turn inTo retire for the night or submit.After a long day at the conference, I'm ready to turn in and get a good night's sleep.
Turn intoTo transform.The small town turned into a bustling metropolis after the discovery of oil.
Turn offTo disconnect .He turned off the TV when he got tired of watching it.
Turn onTo connect.They turned on their phones to chat with their friends.
Turn outTo result or attend.The charity fundraiser turned out to be a remarkable success, raising substantial funds for the cause.
Turn upArrive, usually unexpectedly, early or late.They turned up at the concert just as the show was about to start.
Use upFinish a supply of something.We used up all the gasoline in the car, so we need to find a gas station.
Warm-upTo prepare for physical activity or an increase in temperature.Before the soccer match, the players engage in a warm-up to prevent injuries and enhance performance.
Watch outTo be cautious or aware.While hiking in bear country, it's essential to watch out for signs of wildlife and follow safety guidelines.
Wear outTo use something until it becomes unusable.I wore out my shoes after walking in them every day for a year.
Work outTo exercise or resolve.To improve physical fitness and overall health, it's crucial to work out regularly.
Write downTo record or note.During the lecture, please write down the key points to help with your understanding of the subject.
Work outThink about and find a solution; do exercise.The detectives are working out the details of the crime.
Work upTo generate or increase.To boost productivity, the team needs to work up enthusiasm and motivation for the project.

Frequently Asked Questions About Phrasal Verbs

What are phrasal verbs?

Phrasal verbs are multi-word verbs in English that consist of a main verb and one or more particles (usually prepositions or adverbs). They often have meanings that go beyond the individual words.

How many phrasal verbs are there in English?

There are hundreds of phrasal verbs in English, making them a common and essential part of the language.

Are all phrasal verbs transitive or intransitive?

Phrasal verbs can be either transitive (requiring a direct object) or intransitive (not requiring a direct object).

Can I separate the words in phrasal verbs?

It depends on whether the phrasal verb is separable or inseparable. Separable phrasal verbs allow you to place the direct object between the main verb and the particle, while inseparable ones do not.

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