English phrasal verbs can be a stumbling block for language learners due to their versatility and numerous meanings. However, once you learn how to use them and understand their nuances, they become a powerful tool to express yourself fluently and naturally.
Phrasal verbs are expressions that consist of a verb combined with one or more prepositions or adverbs. The combination creates a new meaning that often differs from the literal interpretation of the individual words. Learning phrasal verbs is essential for effective communication, as they are widely used in everyday English.
Here are some of the most common phrasal verbs in English:
Look forward to
To anticipate or be excited about something in the future
Example: I'm looking forward to our vacation next month.
To take care of or be responsible for someone or something
She looks after her younger siblings while their parents are at work.
My sister looks after my cat when I'm away.
To search for information or consult a reference source
Example: I'll look up that word in the dictionary.
To be cautious or watchful
Example: Look out! There's a car coming.
To investigate or examine something
Example: The police are looking into the matter.
To search or seek something or someone.
Example: She's looking for her keys.
- To make progress or have a good relationship with someone
They get on well with each other.
How are you getting on with your new project?
- To board or get onto a bus, train, aircraft, or boat
Example: We are getting on the next train.
- To have a harmonious relationship with someone
Example: Despite their differences, they managed to get along and work together.
- To make progress or manage a situation
Example: I'm getting along fine with my new job.
To recover from an illness, loss, or emotional setback
Example: It took her a long time to get over her breakup.
To rise or leave the bed in the morning
Example: I usually get up at 6 a.m. on weekdays.
To manage or survive with the available resources
Example: With his part-time job, he can just get by and pay the bills.
To successfully communicate or make something understood
Example: I struggled to get my point across during the presentation.
To establish a stable and calm lifestyle or routine
Example: After years of travelling, she decided to settle down in a small town.
To activate or start a device or switch
Example: Please turn on the lights in the living room.
To deactivate or switch off a device or switch
Example: Don't forget to turn off the TV before leaving.
- To arrive or appear, often unexpectedly
Example: He turned up at the party unannounced.
- To increase the volume or intensity
Example: Can you turn up the music a bit?
To reject or refuse an offer or request
Example: She turned down the job offer because of the low salary.
- To raise or mention a topic
Example: He brought up an important issue during the meeting.
- To raise and care for a child
Example: My grandparents brought me up after my parents passed away.
To introduce or bring something or someone into a place or group
Example: The company brought in a new marketing strategy to increase sales.
To reveal or make something more noticeable
Example: The new lighting brings out the beauty of the artwork.
To cause something to be remembered or reintroduced
Example: This song brings back memories of my childhood.
To leave one's home for social activities or entertainment
Example: We often go out for dinner on weekends.
Run out of
To deplete or exhaust the supply of something
Example: We ran out of milk, so I need to buy some more.
Put up with
To tolerate or endure something unpleasant
Example: I don't know how she puts up with her noisy neighbours.
To wear or apply something to oneself
Example: She put on her favourite dress for the party.
- To postpone or delay something
Example: They decided to put off their vacation until next month.
- To discourage or cause someone to lose interest
Example: The bad weather put off many people from attending the outdoor event.
To propose or suggest an idea or plan
Example: He put forward a new proposal during the meeting.
To clean up and store something in its proper place
Example: Don't forget to put away your toys after playing.
- To remove clothing or depart quickly
He took off his jacket before entering the room.
When he saw the police car, he took off in the other direction.
- To become airborne
Example: The plane took off on time for its scheduled flight.
- To accept or undertake a task or responsibility
Example: She decided to take on the challenging project.
- To employ or hire someone
Example: The company plans to take on new employees this year.
To assume control or responsibility
Example: The new manager will take over the project next week.
To yield or surrender
Example: After a long argument, he finally gave in and agreed to their demands.
To stop doing or pursuing something
Example: She gave up smoking last year.
To emit or release a smell, gas, or light
Example: The flowers give off a pleasant fragrance.
To enter or arrive at a place
Example: Please come in and make yourself comfortable.
To find or encounter something by chance
Example: I came across an interesting article while browsing the internet.
- To cancel or abandon something
Example: They had to call off the concert due to bad weather.
- To stop or halt an ongoing activity
Example: The referee called off the match due to a player's injury.
To arrange or establish something
Example: They set up a meeting to discuss the project.
To enter a building forcibly or unlawfully
Example: Someone broke in and stole our valuables.
To overcome an obstacle or barrier.
Example: After hours of brainstorming, they finally broke through and found a solution.
- To end a romantic relationship
Example: They decided to break up after three years of dating.
- To disperse or scatter
Example: The protesters started to break up as the rain poured down.
To stop working or functioning properly
Example: My car broke down on the way to work this morning.
- To wait or remain on the line during a phone call
Example: Please hold on; I'll transfer you to the right department.
- To keep going in difficult situations or never give up
Example: Just keep holding on John, the project is almost over. We can finally go on holiday!
These examples cover a range of phrasal verbs that are commonly used in various contexts. Practise using them in conversations and written communication to enhance your understanding and fluency.
Remember, phrasal verbs can have different meanings in various contexts, so it's crucial to consider the surrounding words and the overall message being conveyed. By familiarising yourself with their different meanings and contexts, you can enhance your language skills and express yourself more effectively.
Separable Phrasal Verbs
Separable phrasal verbs are those where the verb and particle can be separated by a noun or pronoun. For example:
I picked up my friend at the airport. (particle "up" can be separated)
I picked my friend up at the airport.
Inseparable Phrasal Verbs
Inseparable phrasal verbs are those where the verb and particle cannot be separated. For example:
She always looks after her younger siblings. (particle "after" cannot be separated)
Incorrect: She always looks her younger siblings after.
Phrasal Verbs with Multiple Meanings
One of the challenging aspects of phrasal verbs is that a single verb combined with different particles can have multiple meanings. Consider the verb "take" and its various meanings:
Take off means to remove clothing, but it also means to depart suddenly.
Take on means to accept a challenge or responsibility, but it also means to employ or hire.
Take in means to understand, but it also means to deceive or trick.
Phrasal verbs are an extensive part of the English language, and there are numerous combinations and meanings. Remember to consider the specific meanings and usages of phrasal verbs in different situations to communicate effectively in English.
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