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”
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”
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”
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
|To stop demanding something.
|Tom asked for extra dessert, but when his mom said no, he quickly backed down and said it was okay.
|To support or reinforce.
|The research findings were backed up by multiple credible sources.
|To explode or inflate.
|When they punctured the balloon, it blew up in a burst of confetti.
|To stop working.
|On their way to the picnic, the old car suddenly broke down, and they had to call for help.
|To end; to separate.
|After many disagreements, Sarah and John decided to break up and go their separate ways.
|To mention or raise.
|During the meeting, she decided to bring up the idea of expanding the company's product line.
|To improve or refresh.
|Before the language proficiency test, I need to brush up on my French vocabulary.
|To 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.
|To increase or accumulate.
|Over the years, they managed to build up a substantial savings fund for their retirement.
|To exhaust or lose energy.
|After months of working overtime, she finally experienced burnout and needed a break.
|The workers decided to go on strike to call for better wages and improved working conditions.
|The outdoor concert was called off due to the sudden rainstorm.
|After a short break, the teacher asked the students to carry on with their reading assignments.
|To become popular or understand.
|At first, the new dance move seemed strange, but soon everyone started to catch on and join in.
|To make happier
|After a tough day at work, Sarah's friend tried to cheer her up by telling funny jokes and bringing her favorite snacks.
|To become less upset or angry.
|It took some time for him to calm down after the intense argument with his colleague.
|To explain or resolve.
|The investigator was called in to clear up the mystery surrounding the missing documents.
|To shut or discontinue.
|Due to a decline in sales, they had to make the difficult decision to close down the local branch.
|To find it by chance.
|While hiking in the woods, I came across an old, abandoned cabin hidden among the trees.
|To return or reply.
|She promised to come back with a detailed response to their inquiry by the end of the week.
|To enter or arrive.
|As the meeting started, attendees began to come in, finding their seats.
|To be revealed or published.
|The long-awaited report on the environmental impact of the project finally came out, causing widespread discussion.
|To 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 with
|Think of and suggest an idea.
|During the brainstorming session, Mark was able to come up with a creative solution to the problem.
|Be mentioned, arise or appear.
|During the meeting, an unexpected issue came up that required immediate attention from the team.
|To rely or depend on.
|You can always count on our dedicated team to meet project deadlines.
|To reduce or decrease.
|To conserve energy, they decided to cut back on the use of air conditioning in the office.
|Cut down on
|Reduce the amount you consume.
|After realizing the health risks, Jane decided to cut down on her sugar intake and started choosing healthier snacks.
|Separate / isolate / interrupt.
|I was in the middle of explaining the plan when the phone call cut me off abruptly.
|Stop doing / eating something.
|After years of smoking, Jack decided it was time to improve his health, so he cut out cigarettes completely.
|To decrease or fade.
|After the exciting news settled in, the buzz in the room began to die down.
|The rare species of orchid started to die off due to habitat destruction.
|Become extinct or disappear.
|With the changing climate, some experts believe that certain polar bear populations may die out.
|Start eating greedily.
|After a long hike, they were so hungry that they dug in as soon as the meal was served.
|Reach inside to get something.
|She dug into her bag and pulled out her passport before heading to the airport.
|Fasten, 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.
|Put 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.
|To 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.
|To 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.
|Stop 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.
|To visit briefly.
|If you have time, feel free to drop by my art exhibition this evening.
|To leave or decrease.
|The energy levels of the audience started to drop off as the lecture went on for hours.
|An 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 in love with.
|Despite their differences, Jane couldn't help but fall for Tom's sense of humor and kindness.
|Fall out with
|Argue 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.
|Find 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.
|To complete or replace.
|Can you fill in for our receptionist while she's on her lunch break?
|To discover or learn.
|We need to find out more about the market trends before launching our new product.
|Get along with
|Have a good relationship with.
|Despite their differences, Lisa and her roommate get along with each other really well, sharing laughs and supporting one another.
|Go 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 with
|To escape or avoid punishment.
|The clever thief managed to get away with the heist, leaving no evidence behind.
|Manage 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)
|After a few days of rest and medication, Tom was able to get over the flu and return to his normal routine.
|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 of
|To create more space in the living room, Sarah decided to get rid of old furniture that was no longer needed.
|To pass or survive.
|With hard work and determination, you'll get through the challenges life throws at you.
|Give away (secrets)
|During the surprise party planning, Sarah almost gave away the secrets by accidentally mentioning the decorations to the birthday person.
|After borrowing a book from her friend, Emily made sure to give it back the following week
|To 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.
|To distribute or exhaust.
|At the event, volunteers gave out brochures and pamphlets to inform attendees.
|To 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 with
|Support 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.
|Explode; 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.
|After a brief pause, the speaker encouraged the audience to be patient and assured them that the presentation would go on shortly.
|Go out with
|Have 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 with
|Complete 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.
|Get distant from someone, like a friend
|As 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.
|Slowly 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.
|To submit or deliver.
|Students are required to hand in their research papers by the end of the semester.
|To 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.
|To 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.
|Spend time relaxing .
|After a busy week, Lisa and her friends decided to hang out at the local cafe, enjoying coffee and good conversation.
|To 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.
|After leaving the hotel, they decided to head for the beach to enjoy the sunset.
|Prevent someone from making progress.
|Despite facing challenges, she refused to let anything hold her back from achieving her goals.
|Do something more quickly.
|We need to hurry up if we want to catch the train that leaves in 10 minutes.
|To have an idea.
|During the brainstorming session, she hit on a brilliant concept that could revolutionize the industry.
|To wait or cling.
|Please hold on for a moment; I'll be right back with the information you need.
|Despite facing setbacks, she decided to keep on working towards her dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur.
|Keep up with
|To maintain pace or progress with.
|In the ever-evolving field of technology, it's a challenge to keep up with the latest advancements.
|To disappoint or fail.
|The team was let down by their star player's unexpected absence during the championship match.
|Give 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.
|Arrange events for someone.
|The event coordinator has lined up a series of exciting activities for the weekend retreat.
|The new high-speed rail network will link up major cities, making travel more convenient.
|Follow a belief system to guide your behavior.
|Despite the challenges, she continues to live by the principles of integrity and honesty.
|Stop being embarrassed about something.
|After his unfortunate public blunder, he worked hard to live it down and regain his reputation.
|Accept something unpleasant.
|Managing a chronic illness can be challenging, but she's learned to live with it and maintain a positive attitude.
|Enter a restricted area on a computer system.
|I had trouble remembering my username, so I couldn't log in to my email account.
|Enter a restricted area of a computer system.
|She logged into the company's secure database to access confidential project information.
|Exit a computer system.
|At the end of the workday, she made sure to log off from her computer to protect sensitive data.
|Enter a computer system.
|After entering her credentials, she successfully logged on to the university's student portal.
|Exit a computer system.
|Danny finished his work, closed all programs, and responsibly logged out before leaving the office.
|To take care of or tend to.
|While I'm on vacation, could you look after my plants and water them regularly?
|Look down on
|Feel 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.
|Try to find.
|I need to look for my keys; I can't remember where I last saw them.
|Look forward to
|Feel happy about something that is going to happen.
|After months of planning, the family was looking forward to their vacation in the mountains.
|To investigate or examine.
|The regulatory authority will look into the allegations of environmental violations by the company.
|To search or consult.
|To understand the unfamiliar term, I needed to look up its definition in the dictionary.
|Look up to
|Admire and respect.
|As a young musician, Sarah always looked up to her favorite guitarist and hoped to emulate their skill and passion for music.
|To reconcile or create.
|After their argument, they decided to make up and restore their friendship.
|Make up 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.
|Change 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.
|Stop 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.
|To faint or distribute.
|The intense heat at the outdoor event caused several attendees to pass out and required medical attention.
|After borrowing some money from her friend, Lisa made sure to pay it back as soon as she received her paycheck.
|After browsing the bookstore for hours, Sarah finally decided to pay for the novel she had been eyeing.
|Finish 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.
|To eat slowly.
|Rather than finishing her meal quickly, Emily preferred to pick at her food, savoring each bite.
|The gardener carefully picked off the dead leaves from the plant to promote healthy growth.
|To 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.
|To collect or improve.
|Can you pick up some fresh flowers on your way home from the florist?
|Pick up on
|To become aware of something.
|She was so shy that I didn't pick up on her feelings for me until she finally confessed.
|To choose something.
|He picked out the ripest fruit from the basket.
|To draw attention to something or someone.
|The tour guide pointed out all the landmarks in the city.
|Put something back in the correct place.
|I'll put away the dishes once we're done eating.
|To 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)
|I've been trying to put on some weight lately.
|Extinguish (e.g. fire).
|The firefighters quickly put out the house fire.
|Put up (for the night)
|The homeless shelter was able to put up the family for the night.
|To assemble or gather.
|The team collaborated to put together a comprehensive report on market research findings.
|Put up with
|To tolerate or endure.
|She couldn't put up with her colleague's constant interruptions during meetings any longer.
|To read thoroughly or carefully.
|Before the interview, I'll read through the candidate's resume to prepare better.
|Charge someone too much for something
|That store is notorious for ripping off tourists. They charge way too much for their souvenirs.
|To encounter or bump into.
|While shopping, I unexpectedly ran into my former college professor at the mall.
|Run out of
|To deplete or exhaust.
|We ran out of printer ink, so we'll need to purchase more before finishing the project.
|To start or trigger.
|The alarm system was set off by a sudden increase in carbon monoxide levels.
|Establish / start (e.g. a company).
|She set up her own business after working for several years in corporate finance.
|To appear or arrive.
|Despite the terrible weather, she showed up at the charity event to support the cause.
|Try 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.
|The restaurant is shutting down for renovations.
|Arrange or order by classes or categories; find a solution.
|The company is trying to sort out its finances.
|The letters "USA" stand for the United States of America.
|Be easy to see because of being different.
|The sunflowers stood out from the green grass.
|To decrease speed or pace.
|On the icy roads, it's crucial to slow down and drive cautiously for safety.
|To speak louder or assertively.
|Please speak up during the presentation so everyone in the back can hear your insights.
|To rise from a seated position.
|At the commencement ceremony, all the graduates stood up when their names were called.
|To resemble or inherit traits from.
|He takes after his grandfather with his strong work ethic and determination.
|To depart or remove.
|The aircraft is ready to take off for its scheduled flight to a tropical destination.
|Attempt something new; employ.
|The company is taking on a new project to develop a new product.
|To assume control or responsibility.
|After the CEO's retirement, she took over the leadership of the company.
|Start to like, especially after only a short time.
|She took to the new job and was quickly promoted.
|He took up painting as a way to relax after work.
|Speak angrily to someone who has done something wrong.
|The teacher told off the student for talking in class.
|Get rid of something you do not need any more.
|I'm going to throw away this broken toy.
|To consider or ponder.
|Before making a major life decision, it's essential to think it over carefully and weigh the pros and cons.
|To make a decision through chance.
|Unable to choose a restaurant, they decided to toss up a coin to determine where to dine.
|Return towards the place you started from.
|The car broke down, and we had to turn back.
|Reject or refuse.
|The company turned down our application for a loan.
|To 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.
|The small town turned into a bustling metropolis after the discovery of oil.
|To disconnect .
|He turned off the TV when he got tired of watching it.
|They turned on their phones to chat with their friends.
|To result or attend.
|The charity fundraiser turned out to be a remarkable success, raising substantial funds for the cause.
|Arrive, usually unexpectedly, early or late.
|They turned up at the concert just as the show was about to start.
|Finish a supply of something.
|We used up all the gasoline in the car, so we need to find a gas station.
|To 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.
|To be cautious or aware.
|While hiking in bear country, it's essential to watch out for signs of wildlife and follow safety guidelines.
|To use something until it becomes unusable.
|I wore out my shoes after walking in them every day for a year.
|To exercise or resolve.
|To improve physical fitness and overall health, it's crucial to work out regularly.
|To record or note.
|During the lecture, please write down the key points to help with your understanding of the subject.
|Think about and find a solution; do exercise.
|The detectives are working out the details of the crime.
|To 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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