Table of Contents
Phrasal Verbs! Here, we will cover the definition of phrasal verbs, usage, examples, and some helpful tips in English. Learn the entire lesson and enhance your English language skills. Kindly check the above table of contents for more information about this lesson.
What Are Phrasal Verbs?
When a verb is combined with one or more particles, most often prepositions or adverbs, the result is a phrasal verb, which has a different meaning from the words on its own. The English language frequently uses phrasal verbs in both informal and formal contexts.
Some examples of phrasal verbs with the verb “GET” are “get at”, “get in”, “get out”, “get off”, “get away”, “get over”, and “get back”… and they ALL have different meanings!
Here’s the basic structure of a phrasal verb:
- Verb: This is the main action word.
- Particle: This is the preposition or adverb that is added to the verb to change its meaning.
- Take off: In this phrasal verb, “take” is the verb, and “off” is the particle. Together, they mean “to remove something quickly” or “to become airborne” when referring to an aircraft.
Phrasal verbs can be transitive (taking an object) or intransitive (not taking an object), and their meanings can sometimes be idiomatic, meaning the combination of words doesn’t necessarily convey the literal meaning of their individual components.
Here are a few more examples of phrasal verbs:
- Turn on: To activate or start something (e.g., “Turn on the lights.”)
- Give up: To quit or stop doing something (e.g., “I gave up smoking.”)
- Look forward to: To anticipate or be excited about something in the future (e.g., “I look forward to our meeting.”)
Kinds of the Phrasal Verbs
Phrasal verbs can be categorized into several different types based on their structure and usage. Here are some common kinds of phrasal verbs:
- Transitive Phrasal Verbs:
- These phrasal verbs are followed by a direct object (noun or pronoun).
- Example: “She turned off the lights.”
- Intransitive Phrasal Verbs:
- These phrasal verbs do not require a direct object.
- Example: “He woke up early.”
- Separable Phrasal Verbs:
- In inseparable phrasal verbs, the object can come between the verb and the particle or follow the particle.
- Example: “She put on her coat.” or “She put her coat on.”
- In nonseparable phrasal verbs, the object must follow the phrasal verb.
- Example: “They ran out of milk.”
- Phrasal Verbs with Prepositions:
- Some phrasal verbs use prepositions (e.g., “in,” “on,” and “at”) as particles.
- Example: “He believes in UFOs.”
- Phrasal Verbs with Adverbs:
- Some phrasal verbs use adverbs (e.g., “up,” “down,” “away”) as particles.
- Example: “She tore up the letter.”
- Phrasal Nouns:
- These are phrases formed by combining a verb and a particle to create a noun.
- Example: “The takeoff was smooth.”
- Idiomatic Phrasal Verbs:
- Phrasal verbs with meanings that may not be directly inferred from the individual words.
- Example: “She called off the wedding.”
- Phrasal Verbs with Multiple Meanings:
- Some phrasal verbs have multiple meanings depending on context.
- Example: “Take off” can mean “to remove” or “to become popular.”
- Phrasal Verbs for Suggesting and Recommending:
- These are phrasal verbs used to make suggestions or recommendations.
- Example: “I would advise you to look into that matter.”
- Phrasal Verbs for Describing Movement:
- Phrasal verbs that describe various types of movement.
- Example: “They walked along the beach.”
- Phrasal Verbs for Expressing Emotions:
- Some phrasal verbs are used to convey emotions or reactions.
- Example: “She broke down in tears.”
- Phrasal Verbs for Everyday Actions:
- Phrasal verbs related to common, everyday activities.
- Example: “I need to pick up some groceries.”
Common Phrasal Verbs with Meanings
- Act up – to misbehave or malfunction
- Add up – to make sense or calculate
- Back off – to move away or retreat
- Blow up – to explode or become angry
- Break down – to stop working or have an emotional collapse
- Bring up – to mention or raise a topic
- Call off – to cancel or postpone
- Carry on – to continue
- Catch up – to reach the same level or make up for lost time
- Check in – to register or arrive at a hotel
- Clean up – to tidy or make something clean
- Come across – to encounter or find
- Come up with – to think of or invent
- Cut off – to disconnect or stop something
- Do over – to repeat or redo something
- Drop off – to fall asleep or decrease
- Eat out – to dine at a restaurant
- Figure out – to understand or solve a problem
- Fill out – to complete a form or document
- Get along – to have a good relationship or cooperate
- Give in – to surrender or yield
- Go ahead – to proceed or allow
- Hang out – to spend time together
- Hold on – to wait or retain something
- Keep up – to maintain or continue
- Knock out – to defeat or make unconscious
- Lay off – to terminate employment or stop doing something
- Look after – to take care of or be responsible for
- Make up – to reconcile or create something
- Pass out – to faint or distribute something
- Pay back – to repay or return a debt
- Pick up – to collect or improve
- Put off – to postpone or delay
- Run into – to meet unexpectedly or collide with
- Set up – to arrange or establish
- Show up – to arrive or appear
- Stand by – to support or remain loyal to someone
- Take over – to assume control or responsibility
- Think over – to consider or reflect on something
- Turn down – to refuse or decrease
- Use up – to consume or deplete
- Wait on – to serve or attend to
- Watch out – to be careful or alert
- Work out – to exercise or resolve a problem
- Write down – to record or note something.
Common Phrasal Verbs with Sentences:
|Phrasal Verb||Example Sentence|
|Break down||My car broke down on the way to work.|
|Call off||They had to call off the concert due to the bad weather.|
|Come across||I came across an old photo of us when I was cleaning the house.|
|Cut off||The phone cut off before I could finish my sentence.|
|Drop off||Can you drop me off at the station on your way to work?|
|Figure out||I need to figure out how to fix this problem.|
|Get along||I get along well with my colleagues at work.|
|Give up||I tried to fix the computer, but I had to give up in the end.|
|Look forward to||I’m really looking forward to the concert next weekend.|
|Make up||We had an argument, but we made up later.|
|Put off||I keep putting off going to the dentist.|
|Take off||The plane took off on time.|
|Turn down||He turned down the job offer because the salary was too low.|
|Work out||I need to work out more to get in better shape.|
|Bring up||She brought up the topic of politics at the dinner table.|
|Get over||It took me a long time to get over my fear of flying.|
|Hold on||Can you hold on for a moment while I check something?|
|Look after||I have to look after my sister’s cat while she’s on vacation.|
|Run out||We ran out of milk this morning, so I had to have my coffee black.|
|Show up||He didn’t show up for the meeting, so we had to reschedule.|
|Turn up||The music was so loud that I had to turn up the volume on my headphones.|
Formal and Informal Examples of the Phrasal Verbs
Here are examples of phrasal verbs used in both formal and informal contexts:
1. Phrasal Verb: “Look into”
- Formal: “The investigative committee will look into the matter thoroughly.”
- Informal: “I’ll look into that issue and get back to you.”
2. Phrasal Verb: “Take off”
- Formal: “The plane is scheduled to take off at 7:00 AM.”
- Informal: “I need to take off my shoes before entering the house.”
3. Phrasal Verb: “Break up”
- Formal: “The board decided to break up the company into smaller divisions.”
- Informal: “They broke up after a long-term relationship.”
4. Phrasal Verb: “Bring up”
- Formal: “The speaker will bring up important points during the conference.”
- Informal: “I don’t want to bring up that topic during dinner.”
5. Phrasal Verb: “Get rid of”
- Formal: “The company plans to get rid of outdated equipment.”
- Informal: “Let’s get rid of these old clothes in the closet.”
6. Phrasal Verb: “Put off”
- Formal: “The meeting has been put off until next week.”
- Informal: “I had to put off my dentist appointment.”
7. Phrasal Verb: “Fill out”
- Formal: “Please fill out the application form completely.”
- Informal: “I need to fill out this survey.”
8. Phrasal Verb: “Run into”
- Formal: “I unexpectedly ran into the CEO at the conference.”
- Informal: “I ran into an old friend at the mall.”
9. Phrasal Verb: “Show up”
- Formal: “It’s essential that all employees show up on time for the presentation.”
- Informal: “I hope he shows up at the party tonight.”
10. Phrasal Verb: “Get along”
- Formal: “The team members need to learn how to get along and collaborate.”
- Informal: “Do you and your new coworker get along?”
11. Phrasal Verb: “Carry out”
- Formal: “The research team will carry out a comprehensive study on this topic.”
- Informal: “Let’s carry out our plan and see how it goes.”
12. Phrasal Verb: “Hold on”
- Formal: “Please hold on for a moment while I transfer your call.”
- Informal: “Hold on a second; I’ll be right back.”
13. Phrasal Verb: “Look forward to”
- Formal: “We look forward to receiving your proposal by the deadline.”
- Informal: “I look forward to seeing you at the party tomorrow.”
14. Phrasal Verb: “Turn down”
- Formal: “The committee decided to turn down the applicant’s request.”
- Informal: “He turned down the offer because it didn’t meet his expectations.”
15. Phrasal Verb: “Point out”
- Formal: “The professor was quick to point out the flaws in the argument.”
- Informal: “I just wanted to point out that there’s a typo in the report.”
16. Phrasal Verb: “Back up”
- Formal: “It’s essential to back up all your data to prevent loss.”
- Informal: “Don’t forget to back up your files regularly.”
17. Phrasal Verb: “Look up to”
- Formal: “Many people look up to her as a role model for leadership.”
- Informal: “I’ve always looked up to my older sister.”
18. Phrasal Verb: “Show off”
- Formal: “The presenter did not hesitate to show off the company’s achievements.”
- Informal: “He always tries to show off his new gadgets.”
19. Phrasal Verb: “Set up”
- Formal: “They plan to set up a new branch in the overseas market.”
- Informal: “Let’s set up a meeting for next week.”
20. Phrasal Verb: “Break down”
- Formal: “The technician is here to break down the issue with the software.”
- Informal: “My car broke down on the way to work this morning.”
Usage of the Phrasal Verbs
Phrasal verbs are used in a wide range of contexts in English, both in spoken and written language. Here are some examples:
- Everyday Conversation:
- Phrasal verbs are frequently used in informal conversation. For example: “I ran into my old friend at the store yesterday.”
- Formal Writing:
- While formal writing tends to favor single-word verbs, some phrasal verbs can be used in formal contexts when appropriate. For instance: “The company needs to follow up on these issues.”
- Narrative and Storytelling:
- Phrasal verbs can add depth to storytelling and narrative writing. For example: “As the detective dug into the case, he uncovered new evidence.”
- Business and Professional Communication:
- Phrasal verbs are commonly used in professional settings. For instance: “We need to go over the financial report during the meeting.”
- Casual Communication:
- In casual communication, such as texting or chatting with friends, people often use phrasal verbs. For example: “Let’s hang out this weekend.”
- Instructions and Directions:
- Phrasal verbs are used when giving or following instructions. For instance: “You should fill out the application form and then drop it off at the front desk.”
Example Sentences of the Phrasal Verbs
- She called off the meeting due to the bad weather.
- The chef decided to spice up the dish with some exotic flavors.
- Don’t forget to turn on the lights when you enter the room.
- He promised to look into the issue and find a solution.
- I need to run out to the store to buy some groceries.
- After a long day, I like to kick back and relax with a good book.
- We should go over the details of the project before the presentation.
- She had to give up her dream of becoming a professional musician.
- The teacher asked the students to hand in their homework by Friday.
- We need to clean up the house before the guests arrive.
- The company decided to phase out the old product line.
- He always tries to show off his knowledge in class.
- Let’s break down the problem into smaller, manageable parts.
- I accidentally ran into my neighbor at the coffee shop.
- They plan to set up a new branch of the company in Europe.
- I can’t wait to catch up with my old friends at the reunion.
- The police were called to break up the fight.
- She needs to get over her fear of public speaking.
- The children like to play around in the park after school.
- We should check out that new restaurant everyone’s been talking about.
Phrasal Verbs vs. Single-Word Verbs
Comparing and contrasting phrasal verbs with single-word verbs is a useful way to understand the differences and similarities between these two types of verbs in English. Let’s explore this comparison in more detail:
- Structure: Phrasal verbs consist of a main verb and one or more particles (prepositions or adverbs). The combination of the verb and particle(s) creates a single semantic unit with a specific meaning.
- Flexibility: Phrasal verbs are often more flexible and adaptable in terms of word order and usage. The object can typically come before or after the particle, allowing for variations in sentence structure.
- Meaning: The meaning of phrasal verbs can sometimes be idiomatic, which means that the combination of words doesn’t always convey the literal meaning of the individual components. This can make phrasal verbs challenging for non-native speakers.
- “Turn off” (to deactivate)
- “Run into” (to unexpectedly meet someone)
- “Take up” (to start a new activity or hobby)
- Structure: Single-word verbs consist of a single word and represent a specific action or state. They are not composed of multiple parts like phrasal verbs.
- Clarity: Single-word verbs are often more straightforward and clear in their meaning, as there are no additional particles to consider. They are usually more common in formal writing.
- “Run” (to move quickly on foot)
- “Read” (to interpret written language)
- “Write” (to put words on paper or a screen)
- Structure: The primary difference is in their structure. Phrasal verbs are multi-part verbs, while single-word verbs consist of a single word.
- Complexity: Phrasal verbs can be more complex due to their multiple parts and idiomatic meanings, whereas single-word verbs are typically simpler and more direct.
- Formality: Phrasal verbs are often used in informal language and conversation, while single-word verbs are more common in formal writing and professional communication.
- Usage: The choice between phrasal verbs and single-word verbs can depend on the context and level of formality. Phrasal verbs may be preferred for casual communication, storytelling, and spoken language, while single-word verbs are often favored in academic, technical, and legal writing.
Examples of Usage:
- Phrasal Verb (Informal): “He decided to drop out of school and travel the world.”
- Single-Word Verb (Formal): “She decided to discontinue her studies and embark on a global journey.”
Phrasal Verbs in Idioms
Phrasal verbs are often used within idiomatic expressions in English, which can make understanding and interpreting these idioms challenging for non-native speakers. Idioms are figurative expressions with meanings that are not easily deduced from the individual words. Here are some examples of idiomatic expressions that include phrasal verbs:
- “Kick the bucket”: This idiom means to die. It’s often used humorously or euphemistically.
- Example: “Unfortunately, he kicked the bucket before his 90th birthday.”
- “Hit the hay/sack”: This means to go to bed or to sleep.
- Example: “I’m exhausted; I think I’ll hit the hay early tonight.”
- “Break a leg”: This is a way to wish someone good luck, especially before a performance. It’s used ironically.
- Example: “Break a leg at your audition tomorrow!”
- “Keep an eye on”: To watch or monitor something closely.
- Example: “Can you keep an eye on the kids while I prepare dinner?”
- “Put your foot in your mouth”: To say something embarrassing or tactless without intending to.
- Example: “I really put my foot in my mouth when I asked her about her weight.”
- “Bite the bullet”: To face a difficult or unpleasant situation with courage and determination.
- Example: “I know the surgery will be tough, but I have to bite the bullet and go through with it.”
- “Spill the beans”: To reveal a secret or confidential information.
- Example: “She accidentally spilled the beans about the surprise party.”
- “Get cold feet”: To become nervous or hesitant about doing something, especially before a big event or decision.
- Example: “He was all set to propose, but he got cold feet at the last minute.”
- “Stick to your guns”: To remain firm in one’s beliefs, decisions, or actions.
- Example: “Despite the criticism, she stuck to her guns and defended her position.”
- “Read between the lines”: To understand the hidden or implied meaning in something that is said or written.
- Example: “His tone was polite, but I could read between the lines and tell he was upset.”
- “Jump on the bandwagon”: To join a popular trend or activity.
- Example: “After the success of the first movie, many other studios jumped on the superhero bandwagon.”
- “Break the ice”: To initiate a conversation or activity in a social setting to relieve tension or awkwardness.
- Example: “He told a funny joke to break the ice at the party.”
100 Examples of the Phrasal Verbs
- Bring up
- Bring in
- Take off
- Bring about
- Set off
- Put out
- Look out
- Take back
- Hold out
- Put on
- Bring out
- Move on
- Turn back
- Put back
- Go round
- Break up
- Come along
- Sit up
- Turn round
- Put off
- Come about
- Go along
- Look round
- Set about
- Turn off
- Give in
- Move out
- Come through
- Point out
- Find out
- Come up
- Make up
- Come out
- Come in
- Get in
- Come round
- Make out
- Get off
- Turn down
- Bring down
- Come over
- Break out
- Get through
- Give out
- Come off
- Take in
- Give back
- Set down
- Go on
- Carry out
- Set up
- Pick up
- Go back
- Go over
- Turn over
- Go through
- Hold on
- Pick out
- Sit back
- Hold back
- Put in
- Move in
- Look around
- Take down
- Carry on
- Go up
- Get out
- Take out
- Come down
- Put down
- Turn up
- Get on
- Move up
- Turn around
- Get in
- Go down
- Work out
- Set out
- Take on
- Give up
- Get up
- Look up
- Go in
- Take over
- Go off
- Look back
- Look down
- Bring back
- Break down
- Move back
- Break off
- Come back
- Go out
- Take up
- Get back
- Sit down
Phrasal Verbs Usage, and Examples | Images
In summary, phrasal verbs are a fundamental and versatile aspect of the English language. They come in various forms, adding richness to communication in both formal and informal settings. Understanding and using them effectively is essential for mastering English and expressing ideas with nuance and creativity.