Phrasal Verbs

English Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are usually created by combining a verb with a preposition.

Phrasal verbs can often cause problems for English language learners, as the words are put together in a new way to form a new meaning. Another confusing aspect of phrasal verbs is that they can sometimes be split up.



To take off (aeroplane’s initial passage into the air)

To strike off (to ban/disassociate)

To break down (to stop functioning or to become upset)

To break (something) down (to divide into smaller parts)

To cry off (to cancel)


To get on (to do well at something)

To call back (to return a (phone) call)

To blow up (to explode or to inflate with air by mouth (a balloon))

To pass on (to receive something then give it to someone else / to refuse an offer)

To put off (to postpone or to discourage)

To put up with (to endure under duress)


To check in/out (to arrive at a hotel or airport/ to leave a hotel)

To embark upon (to begin)

To get together (to meet up)

To get on (to do well/succeed at something)

To back (someone) up (to support someone in an argument)

To cheer up (to become happier)

To fill in (to complete a form)

To get over something (to recover from something)

To bank on (to rely on or depend on something)

To brush up on (to improve your skills in something)


More phrasal verbs:

coming down with a cold

feeling under the weather

striking up a conversation

bumping into someone

telling someone off

giving in to something or to someone


getting out of doing something

trading something in

building up an appetite/courage

picking up a cold

making something out / figuring something out / working something out

In telephone calls we talk about:

being put through

cutting someone off

These kind of idiomatic situations mean that the meanings of individual words cannot always be deduced from unrelated context. Speaker will only meet these phrases in certain contexts, often social or non-formal.

Some idiomatic phrasal verbs in context:

to get out of (doing something)

to avoid doing something

In context:

  • John asked me to the party, but I’m trying to get out of it
  • Can’t you get out of doing that?

to hang on

to wait a moment

In context:

  • Hang on a minute, I’ll just go and check
  • Can you hang on, I’m not ready yet

to be put off (by something)

to be discouraged

In context:

  • The uncomfortable bed really put me off that hotel
  • I was going to give him the job, but I was put off by his terrible tie
  • They wanted to eat in the restaurant but were put off by the bad smell

to put (something) off / to put off (something)

to procrastinate/delay something

In context:

  • I didn’t want to do that so I put it off
  • I really need to do the cleaning but I keep putting it off
  • I put him off again because I don’t want to go
  • You should put off going out until you feel well again


to feel under the weather


to come down with something / to be coming down with something 

to feel as though you are getting ill

In context:

  • I’m feeling under the weather. I think I may be coming down with a cold.

to work out

to decipher

In context:

  • The calculation was difficult but I’ve worked it out.
  • Did you manage to work out the answer to that problem?

to work out (verb)


to have a workout (noun)

to do physical exercise

In context:

  • I worked out really hard with the weights and my muscles are tired now (verb)
  • I had a great workout at the gym today (noun)

Some slang idiomatic expressions in context:

to throw a sickie / to chuck a sickie

to pretend to be ill to take a day off work

In context:

  • I threw a sickie to get Monday off
  • You should just throw a sickie, then you can go to the football match

to be in the dog house

to be in trouble with someone / when someone is angry with you

In context:

  • I broke the teapot, now I’m in the dog house
  • I’m really in the dog house with her now

to milk something

to exaggerate something (for sympathy)

In context:

  • She really milked that broken leg
  • I know you missed your train, but you’re milking it a bit, aren’t you?
  • He really milks it when he has a cold

For more phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions check out our English Idioms and Slang page. For some quirkier idioms read all about Cockney rhyming slang.


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