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 pick up on (to work something out – often it might be a subtle clue)
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 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 / depend on someone or something)
To brush up on (to improve your skills in something)
Phrasal verbs using the gerund (the ‘ing’ verb form):
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
working something out / figuring something out / making something out
picking up on something
In telephone calls we talk about:
being put through (being connected with the other person)
cutting someone off (stopping the call abruptly)
asking someone to speak up (speak louder)
picking up the phone (answering the phone)
These kind of idiomatic situations mean that the meanings of individual words cannot always be deduced from unrelated context. The 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
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
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
The horrible bed really put me off that hotel
They wanted to eat in the restaurant but were put off by the bad smell
I was going to give him the job, but I was put off by his terrible tie
to put (something) off / to put off (something)
to procrastinate/delay something
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 feel unwell or sad
to come down with something
to feel as though you are getting ill
I’m feeling under the weather. I think I may be coming down with a cold.
to work out
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
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 pull a sickie / to chuck a sickie
to pretend to be ill to take a day off work
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
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)
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
There are many phrasal verbs using ‘to get’ – check out the graphic above to see some of the most common phrasal verbs.
Do you have any favourite English phrasal verbs?
Share your thoughts on phrasal verbs in the comments!