Phrasal verbs are a really important part of the English language, especially for spoken English.
In our Phrasal Verbs reference section you can find hundreds of the most commonly used phrasal verbs clearly explained with example sentences and fun quiz questions to test your understanding.
Phrasal verbs are usually two-word phrases consisting of verb + adverb or verb + preposition. Think of them as you would any other English vocabulary. Study them as you come across them, rather than trying to memorize many at once. Use the list below as a reference guide when you find an expression that you don't recognize. The examples will help you understand the meanings. If you think of each phrasal verb as a separate verb with a specific meaning, you will be able to remember it more easily. Like many other verbs, phrasal verbs often have more than one meaning
English phrasal verbs come in many shapes and sizes.
Typically, they're a verb and preposition combination which, when combined, changes the meaning of the main verb into something else.
Most students of English find them difficult because sometimes the idiomatic uses either make no sense at all, or the meaning change is so drastic that even a good guesser has no idea what they mean.
Sometimes we call them two part verbs, three part verbs, or multi-word verbs.
Whatever you call them, you should know some basic truths regarding phrasal verb usage.
First of all, they are often used in a literal sense. That is, the combination of the verb with the preposition leads to a logical understanding. There are times when the meaning is far removed from the original verb and takes on a completely idiomatic usage.
Difficulties sometimes occur when deciding if a verb can be 'separated' from the preposition that forms the phrasal verb. The following examples illustrate the problem.
Example: Turn off the TV.
Example: Turn the TV off.
As seen above, some phrasal verbs can be separated with the object of the verb coming between the main verb and the preposition. It's important to know and remember, however, that some phrasal verbs can NOT be separated, and the verb and preposition must remain together.
Example: The sewer gave off a horrible smell.
NOT: The sewer gave a horrible smell off.
Some verbs require that the object comes before the adverb.
Example: They allowed the boy through.
NOT: They allowed through the boy.
When dealing with transitive verbs and the object is a pronoun, then the pronoun comes before the adverb.
Example: Turn it on.
NOT: Turn on it.
If the above seems to be a little too much to take in at one time, then I suggest coming back and doing a page or two at a time. My intentions are to include exercises along with some timely theory lessons to help you solidify your knowledge of phrasal verbs.
For more information regarding prepositions and phrasal verbs, click on the preceding link.
move backwards, in fear or dislike
When he saw the dog, he backed away.
withdraw, concede defeat
Local authorities backed down on their plans to demolish the building.
1) give support or encouragement
2) make a copy of (file, program, etc.)
1) If I tell the boss we've got too much work, will youback me up?
2) It is recommended to back up all files in a secure location.
base your hopes on someone/something
Don't forget the date. I'm banking on your help.
improve, make more substantial
He beefed up his presentation with diagrams and statistics.
faint, lose consciousness
When he fell off the horse he blacked out.
Separate using a barrier.
The area was blocked off during the demonstration.
2) be destroyed by an explosion
1) The terrorists said the bomb would blow up at 9 o'clock.
2) The car blew up but luckily there was nobody in it.
boil down to
be summarized as
The problem boils down to a lack of money.
start a computer by loading an
operating system or program.
Just give my a few minutes to boot up the computer.
escape from captivity
A few horses broke away from the paddock.
1) go out of order, cease to function
2) lose control of one's emotions
1) John's car broke down so he had to take the bus.
2) The parents broke down when they heard the bad news.
enter by force
Burglars broke into the house around midnight.
call on/upon sby
formally invite or request
I now call upon the President to address the assembly.
become more relaxed, less angry or upset
He was angry at first but he eventually calmed down.
He carried on gardening in spite of the rain.
1) do something as specified
(a plan, an order, a threat)
2) perform or conduct (test, experiment)
1) The plan was carried out to perfection.
2) Tests are carried out to determine the efficiency of a new drug.
postpone until later
As regards holidays, can you carry over any days from one year
to the next?
handle, take care of (problem, situation)
The manager is good at dealing with difficult customers.
calm down, become less strong
When the applause died down, she started to sing.
The shops are closed so we'll have to do withoutsugar.
last longer than expected
We expected a short speech but it dragged on and on!
reduce, become less severe or slow down
(pain, traffic, work)
After Christmas the workload generally eases off.
finish in a certain way; result in
Their marriage ended in divorce.
finally reach a state, place or action
If he continues his misconduct he'll end up in prison.
1) eliminate differences of opinion.
2) become level or regular
1) After a long discussion they managed to even outtheir differences.
2) The road was evened out to make it safer.