Phrasal verbs are very common in English, especially in informal contexts. If your goal is to build a conversation with English speakers, then phrasal verbs are something you need to indulge in. We will make it short and easy.

In this article, you will learn:

So without further ado, here is everything you need to know about english Phrasal Verbs

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What Is The Definition of Phrasal Verbs: Literal And Idiomatic

Phrasal verbs are the combination of two or three words that are considered from different grammatical categories, like a verb + preposition or adverb. However, there are also two different definitions of phrasal verbs, literal and idiomatic:

Literal Phrasal Verbs

The majority of phrasal verbs have a literal, obvious meaning that can be understood from the two words (if you know the meaning of each individual word). For example:

  • The dentist took off my tooth today.
  • He ran out of his room.

Idiomatic Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs can become a bit confusing because their meanings would less obvious, and sometimes, hard to guess. You can understand its meaning from the context, but other than that, it can be challenging. For example:

  • We ran out of milk so quickly.
  • Don’t forget to take out holiday insurance before you leave.
  • I put in 10 hours a day of work at my current job.

Can you guess the meaning of these examples? Any luck?

woman reading a book

Examples of Phrasal Verbs: All You Need To Know

Let’s go over some examples:

🡲 Take off:

  • The plane has just taken off. (the plane is leaving the ground)
  • Feel free to take off your jacket. (remove)

🡲 The meaning of the original verb is transformed by the preposition. Sometimes phrasal verbs are easy to understand because the particle has a literal meaning:

Stand up, go away, get in, get out, jump down, climb up

But many phrasal verbs have figurative or idiomatic meanings and may be synonymous with another one-word verb, very often with a Latin root:

Phrasal Verb
Meaning
Turn down
Refuse
Leave out
Omit/Exclude
Go on
Continue
Set up
Establish
Go off
Explode
Give up
Abandon
Work out
Exercise/ Calculate
Make up
Invent

🡲 Some phrasal verbs can have an object which can go either before or after the particle – this is called a separable phrasal verb:

  • They put off the meeting.
  • They put the meeting off.

🡲 If the object is very long, then it’s better to keep the verb and particle together.

The assistant wrote down both the caller’s home and mobile phone numbers.

🡲 If you use a pronoun then it has to go between the verb and the particle:

They put it off. The assistant wrote them down.

Inseparable Phrasal Verbs Are Those That Cannot Be Separated

The phrasal verbs that require an object don’t allow an object to come between the verb and particle. It is a necessity for the verb to be followed by the object, which is why they are called Inseparable Phrasal Verbs.

Here is a list of inseparable phrasal verbs and their simplified meanings:

  • Please hold on. (wait)
  • I’ll look into this matter. (investigate)
  • I ran into my old colleague at the cafeteria. (meet unexpectedly)
  • The packaging machine broke down last week. (be out of order)
  • She got over her illness very quickly. (recover)
  • My sister is staying home to look after the children today. (take care of)
  • Dave took up computer programming when he was out of work. (begin learning something)
  • I came across an interesting article in the paper. (discover by accident)

By looking at the prepositions and their most common meanings, you can often guess the meaning of the phrasal verb:

PrepositionsMeaningExample
DownTo become less or completely to the ground or stopping completely or on paper• Turn down the music.
• Bring down prices.
• Knock down a building.
• A factory closed down.
• Write down the message
• Note down the information.
OffAway, departing, or disconnected• Drove off into the sunset.
• See someone off at the airport.
• The plane took off.
• Switch off the light.
• Cut off the power.
OnConnected or wearing or continuing• Turn on the computer.
• Leave on the lights.
• Try on the jacket.
• Carry on working.
• Drive on a bit further.
Outaway, disappearing or distributing or out loud or from start to finish• Cross out a mistake.
• Give out presents, read out the names.
• Write out a list.
Upincreasing or completely• Taxes are going up.
• Fill up the car with gas
• Rip up the paper
• Catch up to them.
• Eat up all the food.

List Of Phrasal Verbs You Could Use: Learn And Organize

Another way to learn and organize phrasal verbs is to take a verb and look at the different particles that are most frequently used with it:

Phrasal VerbMeaningExample
Call inAsking someone to come and help.I called in the local builder to help us.
Call onseek helpI need to call on my neighbor for details.
Call outshoutHe has to call out for them.
Drop offleave out of a vehicleMy father dropped me off next to your building.
Drop outleave school before graduatingMy brother dropped off in high school.
Draw upPull forward, plan, arriveMy grandparents drew up a new will.
Fall behindbe slower than othersDuring my absence, I fell behind in a few classes.
Fall out withno longer speak with someoneHe had fallen out with his sister.
Fall throughnot happenOur plans to go to Mexico fell through.
Fill in/outcomplete a form/documentI have to fill in these school documents today.
Get along/on withhave a good relationship withYour sister and I get along very well.
Get aroundtravel, move about, circulateThe new bus helps me get around easily.
Get intoenterWe have to get into the new museum.
Get offleave a transportationYou should get off the train right now.
Get onperform or make progress in a specified way / have a good relationship with someone-Your siblings seem to get on pretty well.
Get rid ofeliminateYou need to get rid of this trash.
Get throughreach on the phone, surviveI have been calling him but I can’t get through.
Get toarrive atYou need to get to the office as soon as possible.
Get upriseShe has to get up very early tomorrow.
Give insurrenderHe finally gave in to my suggestions.
Give upabandonI could never give up on my pets.
Go aroundrotateThey had to go around the entire neighborhood to find me.
Go outgo outsideLet’s go out tonight.
Go overreview in detailsCan we go over the contract again?
Go upincreaseThe cost of gas is going up again.
Have somebody overreceive someoneI am having my in-laws over tonight.
Have under the beltachieveShe has her Ph.D. under the belt.
Keep up withcontinue, carry onI can’t keep up with this job any longer.
Leave behindto forget something when you leaveI left my phone behind on the bus.
Leave outto omitLeave out the Mayonnaise from my sandwich, please.
Lock inprevent from leavingMy dog was kept locked in the apartment.
Lock outstuck outsideI got locked out of my house because I forgot the keys.
Lock upimprison Look afterThe criminal has to be locked up for years.
Look atwatchLook at my new dress!
Look forsearch, seekLook for strawberries when you go to the store.
Look forward towaiting for or anticipate somethingI look forward to hearing from you.
Look into visit or checkYou have to look in on your parents every day.
Look intoinvestigatingI will look into your application shortly.
Look outbe carefulYou should always look out for thieves.
Pass alongshareCan you pass along the olives?
Pass bymiss the detailsI feel like life is passing by quickly.
Pass overnot give consideration toI am sad I wasn’t passed over for that job.
Pass throughquickly go throughBill is passing through your neighborhood.
Put offpostpone, set a later date, disgustYou should pull off that assignment until later.
Settle downbecome stable or calmKatie finally decided to settle down and get married.
Sign offTo end a letterSign off your resignation paper before next week.
Sign onagreeing to joinDavid agreed to sign on our new project.
Sign outindicate a departure by signing a registerWe have to sign out before leaving the hotel.
Sign upregisterWe need to sign up for that Yoga class.
Slow up/downmove/go slowerSlow down while driving, please.
Take inunderstand, make clothing fit more tightly, to be fooledI had to be silent and take in the information I was given.
Take offleave, departThe airplane will take off at 6 am.
Take outbring outsideLet’s take this party out to the garden.
Take overtake control ofHe was busy, so I had to take over dinner.
Take toadapt toYour cat has taken to sleeping on my bed.
Take upTo fill or occupy time or spaceThis game takes up a lot of space on my phone.
Turn downrefuseAmy turned down my offer to help.
Set offleaveThe band came in after they set off.
Write offeliminate or enter a lossMy wife wrote off the tickets.
Write outwrite information explicitly and in detailThe students have to write out all the exercises.

🡲 Sometimes the phrasal verb can be transformed into a noun (usually in the same order – verb + particle, but sometimes in reversed order):

  • They had a falling-out and no longer speak to each other.
  • The machine had a breakdown.
  • The economy has been in a downturn for the past year.

Structure Of 3 – Word Phrasal Verbs: Verbs + 2 Particles

The phrasal verbs in the previous examples contained a verb and ONE particle. However, 3-word phrasal verbs also exist (one verb + 2 particles) and often have figurative meanings which we cannot always guess from looking at the individual words:

  • All the members of the team get along well with each other. (have a good relationship with)
  • It’s hard to keep up with him when he walks as he’s got long legs. (go as fast as)
  • Look out for pickpockets when you go to very touristy areas. (be careful about)
  • I’ve decided not to put up with all their angry arguments. (tolerate)
  • We’ve run out of paper in the photocopier. (have none left)
  • The finance department has asked us to cut down on extra expenses. (reduce)
  • They’ve decided to do away with paper files. (abolish)
  • Our manager can never face up to his responsibilities. (not avoid)
  • I’ll take you up on your offer. (accept)
  • The shop quickly sold out of the new line of mobile phones. (sell everything)

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