Phrasal Verbs

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Created by: Team English -, Last Updated: May 22, 2024

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are a key part of English language fluency, combining verbs with prepositions or adverb to create new meanings. They are essential for everyday communication and understanding, often used in idiomatic expressions. Learning phrasal verbs enhances vocabulary and comprehension, allowing for more natural and effective interactions. Mastering these can significantly improve both spoken and written English skills.

What is a Phrasal Verb?

A phrasal verb is a combination of a verb and one or more particles (prepositions or adverbs) that together create a new meaning distinct from the original verb. Examples include “give up” (quit), “run into” (encounter), and “break down” (stop functioning). These verbs are essential for everyday English fluency and comprehension.

Phrasal Verb Functions

Phrasal verbs serve various functions in English, enhancing the language’s expressiveness and specificity. Here are key functions:

  1. Convey Actions: They describe actions precisely, such as “turn on” (activate) or “put off” (postpone).
  2. Express States: They indicate states or conditions, like “be over” (end) or “calm down” (relax).
  3. Indicate Changes: They show changes in state or condition, e.g., “break down” (malfunction) or “grow up” (mature).
  4. Provide Direction: They give directions or locations, such as “come in” (enter) or “go out” (exit).
  5. Add Emphasis: They add emphasis or clarity, like “look out” (beware) or “speak up” (speak louder).

Types of Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are categorized based on their structure and how they function in sentences. Understanding these types helps in using them correctly and enhances communication skills. Here are the main types:

1. Transitive Phrasal Verbs

These verbs require a direct object to complete their meaning. The action is done to something or someone.


  • “Give up” – She gave up smoking. (Smoking is the direct object.)

2. Intransitive Phrasal Verbs

These verbs do not require a direct object. The action is complete without needing to specify what it is done to.


  • “Wake up” – He woke up early. (There is no direct object needed.)

3. Separable Phrasal Verbs

For these verbs, the particle (preposition or adverb) can be separated from the verb and placed after the object. This type can be tricky, as placement can change without altering the meaning.


  • “Turn off” – She turned off the light.
  • Or: She turned the light off.

4. Inseparable Phrasal Verbs

These verbs cannot have their particle separated from the verb. The particle must stay directly after the verb.


  • “Look after” – She looks after her siblings. (The verb and particle cannot be split.)

5. Three-Part Phrasal Verbs

These consist of a verb and two particles. They are always inseparable, and the particles must stay in the given order.


  • “Put up with” – I can’t put up with the noise. (The structure “put up with” must stay together.)

Use of Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are widely used in English to make communication more expressive and dynamic. Here’s how and why they are used:

1. Everyday Conversation

Phrasal verbs are integral to everyday spoken English, making conversations sound natural and fluent.


  • “Pick up” – Can you pick up some groceries on your way home?
  • “Put off” – They decided to put off the meeting until next week.

2. Describing Actions

They often describe specific actions more vividly than single-word verbs.


  • “Turn on” – Please turn on the lights.
  • “Break down” – The car broke down on the highway.

3. Expressing Emotions and States

Phrasal verbs can effectively express emotions and states.


  • “Calm down” – He needed a few minutes to calm down after the argument.
  • “Cheer up” – Cheer up! Everything will be okay.

4. Giving Directions

They are useful for providing clear and concise directions.


  • “Come in” – Come in and have a seat.
  • “Go out” – We usually go out on Fridays.

5. Indicating Changes

Phrasal verbs can indicate changes in state, condition, or status.


  • “Grow up” – He grew up in a small town.
  • “Fall apart” – The old house is falling apart.

6. Adding Emphasis

Using phrasal verbs can add emphasis and clarity to statement.


  • “Look out” – Look out for the cars!
  • “Speak up” – Please speak up; I can’t hear you.

7. Idiomatic Expressions

They often form idiomatic expressions that convey meanings not immediately obvious from the individual words.


  • “Get along” – They get along well with each other.
  • “Run into” – I ran into an old friend at the mall.

8. Informal Writing

While commonly used in speech, phrasal verbs also appear in informal writing, such as emails, letters, and social media posts.


  • “Catch up” – Let’s catch up soon!
  • “Check out” – Check out this new movie.

Rules of Phrasal Verbs

Understanding the rules of phrasal verbs is crucial for proper usage. Here are the key rules to keep in mind:

1. Placement of Objects with Separable Phrasal Verbs

When using separable phrasal verbs, you can place the object between the verb and the particle or after the particle.


  • “Turn off” – She turned off the light.
  • Or: She turned the light off.

2. Inseparability of Inseparable Phrasal Verbs

For inseparable phrasal verbs, the verb and particle must stay together. The object always follows the phrasal verb.


  • “Look after” – She looks after her siblings. (Not: She looks her siblings after.)

3. Position of Objects with Pronouns

When the object is a pronoun (e.g., him, her, it), it must go between the verb and the particle in separable phrasal verbs.


  • “Turn off” – She turned it off. (Not: She turned off it.)

4. Handling Three-Part Phrasal Verbs

Three-part phrasal verbs (verb + particle + preposition) are always inseparable. The particles must remain in the specified order, and the object follows them.


  • “Put up with” – I can’t put up with the noise. (Not: I can’t put the noise up with.)

5. Meaning Changes with Different Particles

The meaning of a phrasal verb can change significantly with different particles. Learning each combination is essential.


  • “Take off” (remove clothing or become airborne)
  • “Take in” (absorb or deceive)
  • “Take over” (assume control)

6. Context Determines Meaning

The context in which a phrasal verb is used often determines its meaning. Pay attention to the surrounding words and the overall sentence.


  • “Break down” can mean to stop functioning (The car broke down) or to become emotional (She broke down in tears).

7. Use in Formal and Informal Contexts

Phrasal verbs are common in informal English. In formal writing, it’s often better to use a single-word verb when possible.


  • Informal: “The meeting was called off.”
  • Formal: “The meeting was canceled.”

Phrasal Verbs List

Phrasal VerbMeaningExample
Break downStop functioningThe car broke down on the highway.
Bring upMention a topicShe brought up an interesting point.
Call offCancelThey called off the meeting.
Carry onContinueCarry on with your work.
Come acrossFind by chanceI came across an old photo.
Cut downReduceHe needs to cut down on sugar.
Find outDiscoverI found out the truth.
Get alongHave a good relationshipThey get along well.
Give upQuitShe gave up smoking.
Go onContinueGo on with your story.
Look afterTake care ofShe looks after her siblings.
Look forward toAnticipate with pleasureI look forward to the weekend.
Make upInvent (a story or lie)He made up a silly excuse.
Pick upCollectCan you pick up some groceries?
Put offPostponeThey put off the meeting.
Run intoMeet by chanceI ran into an old friend.
Set upArrange, establishThey set up a new business.
Take offRemove or leave the groundHe took off his jacket.
Turn downRejectShe turned down the job offer.
Wake upStop sleepingHe woke up early today.

100 Most Common Phrasal Verbs List

60 Common Phrasal Verbs
Phrasal VerbMeaning
Break downStop functioning or lose control emotionally
Bring upMention a topic
Call offCancel
Carry onContinue
Come acrossFind by chance
Cut downReduce
Find outDiscover
Get alongHave a good relationship
Give upQuit
Go onContinue
Look afterTake care of
Look forward toAnticipate with pleasure
Make upInvent (a story or lie)
Pick upCollect or lift
Put offPostpone
Run intoMeet by chance
Set upArrange, establish
Take offRemove or leave the ground
Turn downReject
Wake upStop sleeping
Break upEnd a relationship
Bring outPublish or release
Call backReturn a phone call
Carry outPerform or conduct
Check inRegister at a hotel or airport
Come backReturn
Cut offStop providing or remove
Fall apartBreak into pieces or become emotionally upset
Get backReturn
Give inSurrender or yield
Go outLeave home for social activities
Hold onWait or grip tightly
Look upSearch for information
Make outUnderstand or see clearly
Put onWear or gain (weight)
Run outExhaust supply
Set offStart a journey or trigger
Take overAssume control
Turn upAppear or increase volume
Work outExercise or find a solution
Break intoEnter forcibly
Bring aboutCause to happen
Call inSummon for help or consult
Carry on withContinue with something
Check outLeave a hotel or verify information
Come down withBecome ill
Cut backReduce
Fall forBe deceived or fall in love
Get overRecover from
Give awayDistribute for free or reveal a secret
Go throughExperience or examine
Hang upEnd a phone call
Look intoInvestigate
Make up forCompensate for
Put up withTolerate
Run overHit with a vehicle or review quickly
Set upEstablish or arrange
Take backReturn or retract a statement
Turn offStop a device or repulse
Work onFocus efforts on something
Break throughOvercome an obstacle
Bring inIntroduce or earn
Call offCancel
Carry offSucceed in doing something difficult
Check up onInvestigate or verify
Come up withThink of an idea or plan
Cut down onReduce the amount of something
Fall behindFail to keep up with
Get byManage to survive or cope
Give up onLose faith in someone or something
Go aheadProceed
Hang outSpend time relaxing
Look out forBe vigilant for
Make off withSteal and escape
Put outExtinguish or inconvenience
Run awayEscape or leave unexpectedly
Set aboutStart doing something
Take inAbsorb or deceive
Turn inSubmit or go to bed
Work throughDeal with a problem or situation
Break offEnd abruptly
Bring up toRaise to a certain standard
Call outShout or summon for action
Carry awayBe overly excited or enthusiastic
Check out ofLeave a place or situation
Come outBe published or revealed
Cut outRemove or stop using something
Fall outArgue or quarrel
Get downDepress or start doing seriously
Give backReturn something to someone
Go offExplode or become spoiled
Hold backRestrain or delay
Look overReview or inspect quickly
Make out withKiss passionately
Put downCriticize or euthanize (an animal)
Run downHit and injure or criticize severely
Settle downStart a stable life or calm down
Take upStart a new hobby or fill space
Turn aroundReverse direction or improve situation
Work out forHave a good result for

Phrasal Verbs A to Z with Meanings and Sentences


1. Account for
Meaning: Explain or justify
Sentence: He couldn’t account for his absence at the meeting.

2. Add up
Meaning: Make sense or total
Sentence: Her story just doesn’t add up.


3. Back up
Meaning: Support or reverse
Sentence: She always backs up her arguments with facts.

4. Break down
Meaning: Stop functioning or analyze in detail
Sentence: The car broke down on the way to work.


5. Call off
Meaning: Cancel
Sentence: They called off the event due to bad weather.

6. Carry on
Meaning: Continue
Sentence: Despite the interruption, she carried on with her presentation.


7. Deal with
Meaning: Handle or manage
Sentence: She had to deal with many problems at once.

8. Drop out
Meaning: Leave school or a program
Sentence: He dropped out of college in his second year.


9. End up
Meaning: Finally reach a state or condition
Sentence: They ended up staying at a hotel.

10. Eat out
Meaning: Dine at a restaurant
Sentence: We decided to eat out tonight.


11. Figure out
Meaning: Understand or solve
Sentence: She finally figured out the solution to the problem.

12. Fill in
Meaning: Complete or substitute
Sentence: Can you fill in this form?


13. Get along
Meaning: Have a good relationship
Sentence: They get along well with each other.

14. Give up
Meaning: Quit or surrender
Sentence: She gave up smoking last year.


15. Hold on
Meaning: Wait or grasp tightly
Sentence: Hold on for a moment, please.

16. Hurry up
Meaning: Rush or move quickly
Sentence: We need to hurry up if we want to catch the train.


17. Iron out
Meaning: Resolve or smooth out
Sentence: They had a meeting to iron out the details.

18. Invite over
Meaning: Ask someone to come to your house
Sentence: Let’s invite over some friends for dinner.


19. Join in
Meaning: Participate
Sentence: Would you like to join in our game?

20. Jump in
Meaning: Enter quickly or interrupt
Sentence: He jumped in with a solution to the problem.


21. Keep up
Meaning: Maintain or continue
Sentence: It’s hard to keep up with the news these days.

22. Knock out
Meaning: Defeat or render unconscious
Sentence: The boxer knocked out his opponent in the second round.


23. Look after
Meaning: Take care of
Sentence: She looks after her younger brother.

24. Look up
Meaning: Search for information
Sentence: She looked up the word in the dictionary.


25. Make up
Meaning: Invent (a story or lie)
Sentence: He made up an excuse for being late.

26. Move on
Meaning: Continue to a new topic or place
Sentence: After the meeting, we decided to move on to other issues.


27. Nod off
Meaning: Fall asleep
Sentence: He nodded off during the lecture.

28. Narrow down
Meaning: Reduce the number of options
Sentence: We need to narrow down the choices to three.


29. Opt out
Meaning: Choose not to participate
Sentence: She decided to opt out of the project.

30. Own up
Meaning: Admit or confess
Sentence: He owned up to his mistakes.


31. Pass out
Meaning: Faint or distribute
Sentence: He passed out from exhaustion.

32. Pick up
Meaning: Collect or improve
Sentence: I’ll pick up the kids from school.


33. Quiet down
Meaning: Become silent or less noisy
Sentence: The teacher asked the students to quiet down.

34. Quarrel with
Meaning: Argue or dispute
Sentence: She often quarrels with her siblings.


35. Run out
Meaning: Exhaust supply
Sentence: We’ve run out of milk.

36. Rule out
Meaning: Eliminate as an option
Sentence: The police ruled out foul play.


37. Set up
Meaning: Arrange or establish
Sentence: They set up a new business.

38. Show up
Meaning: Arrive or appear
Sentence: He didn’t show up for the meeting.


39. Take off
Meaning: Remove or leave the ground
Sentence: The plane took off on time.

40. Turn down
Meaning: Reject
Sentence: She turned down the job offer.


41. Use up
Meaning: Consume completely
Sentence: We used up all the flour.

42. Urge on
Meaning: Encourage
Sentence: The coach urged on his team.


43. Vouch for
Meaning: Support or guarantee
Sentence: I can vouch for his honesty.

44. Vault over
Meaning: Jump over something
Sentence: He vaulted over the fence.


45. Wake up
Meaning: Stop sleeping
Sentence: She woke up early today.

46. Wind down
Meaning: Relax or conclude
Sentence: We need to wind down after a busy day.


47. X out
Meaning: Delete or cancel
Sentence: Just X out that mistake.


48. Yearn for
Meaning: Desire strongly
Sentence: She yearns for a vacation.

49. Yield to
Meaning: Give way to
Sentence: He yielded to the temptation.


50. Zip up
Meaning: Fasten with a zipper
Sentence: Don’t forget to zip up your jacket.

51. Zone out
Meaning: Lose focus
Sentence: He often zones out during meetings.

52. Zero in on
Meaning: Focus closely on
Sentence: They zeroed in on the main issue.

How to Conjugate Phrasal Verbs

Conjugating phrasal verbs involves changing the verb part to match the subject, tense, and grammatical mood. The particle (preposition or adverb) remains unchanged. Here’s a step-by-step guide to conjugating phrasal verbs with examples in different tenses and forms.

Present Simple

Structure: [Subject] + [Base Verb/Verb-s/es] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She takes off her coat. (singular subject)
  • Look after: They look after the children. (plural subject)

Past Simple

Structure: [Subject] + [Past Verb] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She took off her coat.
  • Look after: They looked after the children.

Present Continuous

Structure: [Subject] + [Am/Is/Are] + [Verb-ing] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She is taking off her coat.
  • Look after: They are looking after the children.

Past Continuous

Structure: [Subject] + [Was/Were] + [Verb-ing] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She was taking off her coat.
  • Look after: They were looking after the children.

Present Perfect

Structure: [Subject] + [Have/Has] + [Past Participle] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She has taken off her coat.
  • Look after: They have looked after the children.

Past Perfect

Structure: [Subject] + [Had] + [Past Participle] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She had taken off her coat.
  • Look after: They had looked after the children.

Future Simple

Structure: [Subject] + [Will] + [Base Verb] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She will take off her coat.
  • Look after: They will look after the children.

Future Continuous

Structure: [Subject] + [Will Be] + [Verb-ing] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She will be taking off her coat.
  • Look after: They will be looking after the children.

Present Perfect Continuous

Structure: [Subject] + [Have/Has Been] + [Verb-ing] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She has been taking off her coat.
  • Look after: They have been looking after the children.

Past Perfect Continuous

Structure: [Subject] + [Had Been] + [Verb-ing] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She had been taking off her coat.
  • Look after: They had been looking after the children.

Future Perfect

Structure: [Subject] + [Will Have] + [Past Participle] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She will have taken off her coat.
  • Look after: They will have looked after the children.

Future Perfect Continuous

Structure: [Subject] + [Will Have Been] + [Verb-ing] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She will have been taking off her coat.
  • Look after: They will have been looking after the children.

Modal Verbs

Structure: [Subject] + [Modal Verb] + [Base Verb] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She can take off her coat.
  • Look after: They should look after the children.


Structure: [Verb] + [Particle]


  • Take off: Take off your coat.
  • Look after: Look after the children.

Negative Form

Structure: [Subject] + [Do/Does/Did/Will/Have/Has/Am/Is/Are/Was/Were/Modal Verb] + [Not] + [Base Verb/Past Participle/Verb-ing] + [Particle]


  • Take off: She does not take off her coat.
  • Look after: They did not look after the children.


Structure: [Do/Does/Did/Will/Have/Has/Am/Is/Are/Was/Were/Modal Verb] + [Subject] + [Base Verb/Past Participle/Verb-ing] + [Particle]


  • Take off: Does she take off her coat?
  • Look after: Did they look after the children?

What are phrasal verbs?

Phrasal verbs are combinations of verbs with prepositions or adverbs that create new meanings different from the original verbs.

Why are phrasal verbs important?

They are essential for everyday English fluency, making speech and writing more natural and expressive.

How do I learn phrasal verbs?

Practice regularly, use them in sentences, and familiarize yourself with common phrasal verbs through reading and conversation.

Are phrasal verbs formal or informal?

Phrasal verbs are more common in informal spoken and written English but can be used in formal contexts depending on the verb.

Can phrasal verbs be separated?

Some phrasal verbs are separable, meaning the particle can be placed after the object, while others are inseparable.

What’s the difference between transitive and intransitive phrasal verbs?

Transitive phrasal verbs require a direct object, while intransitive ones do not.

How many particles can a phrasal verb have?

Phrasal verbs can have one (verb + particle) or two particles (verb + particle + preposition).

Do phrasal verbs change meaning with different particles?

Yes, changing the particle can significantly alter the meaning of the phrasal verb.

Are phrasal verbs the same in British and American English?

Most phrasal verbs are the same, but some may differ in usage or preference between British and American English.

Can I avoid using phrasal verbs?

While possible, avoiding phrasal verbs can make your English sound less natural. Learning them enhances fluency.

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