Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are combinations of words that perform the function of a verb. These combinations necessarily include a verb and either an adverb or a preposition (or both). They form one complete semantic unit because the words that comprise a phrasal verb together describe one action. For example:

Phrasal Verb


Example Sentences

ask around

To ask the same question from many people

I have not seen him here but I will ask around.

I am not sure if there are vacancies, but I will ask around the office.

add up tosomething

To equal/corroborate a fact

She explained why the work was not ready, but her story does not add up.

The clues we found at the house and the museum must add up to something.

asksomeone out

To invite someone on a date

I want to ask her out but she is dating someone.

I wish I could muster the courage to ask her out.

blowsomething up

To exaggerate

The girls in school always blow gossip up to huge proportions.

My mother blows my achievements up in front of guests.

backsomeone up

To support

The captain will not back him up just because he is his son.

You may be wrong but I will back you up because you are my brother.

blow up

To explode

The army is going to blow up that building with a bomb.

Our calculations were wrong and the rocket blew up just after liftoff.

break down

To stop functioning (usually for vehicle, machine, etc.)

The old train is certain to break down if it is not maintained properly.

He was driving recklessly and the old car broke down.

breaksomething down

To divide and subdivide

They broke the students down into groups of four.

The detective said they were still breaking the information down to make sense of it.

break intosomething

To enter forcibly/ interrupt

The newspaper reported a break-in at the bank.

Last night, two thieves broke into the house next door.

break up

To end a relationship

A break up can lead to emotional trauma.

After being together for five years they have decided to break up.

break out

To escape

The Taliban helped 500 inmates escape of the Afghan jail.

Ten inmates broke out of prison in the southern town yesterday.

break out

To spread

There was a world panic when SARS broke out in China in 2002.

The news about the adulterous affair will break out in tomorrow’s newspaper.

bringsomeone down

To upset someone or to make someone unhappy

The boss manages to bring down my mood every day.

His pessimistic comments bring down the whole group.

bringsomeone up

raise a child

I was brought up in a conservative Hindu family.

After being abandoned by his parents in Ghana he was brought up by an Italian couple.


To initiate a conversation on a subject

My sister walks out of the room when I bring up the subject of sports.

I will bring up the issue of cleanliness in the meeting today.

call around

To phone different places/people

We called around but we could not find the spare part we needed.

I have not seen him today but I will call around and inquire.

callsomeone back

To return a phone call

Please me back when you get this message.

I could not answer your call earlier but I will call back shortly.

callsomething off

To abandon or cancel

The referee has decided to call off the game due to bad weather.

They have decided to call off the wedding due to financial troubles.

callsomeone up

To phone someone

The boss wants you to call up the client now.

She will call you up later to discuss the issue.

calm down

relax after being angry

It is going to be okay, please calm down.

The crew asked us to calm down during turbulence.

catch up

To get to the same point as someone else/ or to work hard in order to equal with someone

You will have to walk faster if you want to catch up with Maya.

You have studied a lot more and I need to catch up.

check in

To reach and register at a hotel or airport

When you arrive at the airport, you have to check in at the airline desk.

At a hotel, check-in is normally required in order to obtain a room key.

check out

To leave a hotel

You will have to return the room when you check out of the hotel.

Please ensure that you are in possession of all your belongings before checking-out of the hotel.

cheer up

Used as an expression to ask someone to be happy

She cheered up when she heard that the result was positive.

Cheer up, it is your birthday!

chip in

To contribute/help

If everybody chips in, we can get a bottle of the most expensive wine.

I do not have enough money for a pizza so all of you need to chip in as well.

cleansomething up

To tidy a place

They need to clean up the platform because it is really dirty.

You must clean up the room before the president arrives.

come across something

find unexpectedly

I came across these books when I was tidying the cupboard.

While reading this book I came across new information regarding dinosaurs.

come apart

To separate/ fall down/ break down

The flimsy decorations came apart halfway through the celebrations.

The group of friends came apart once they went to different colleges.

come down with something

To become sick

Her son came down with the flu last weekend.

My throat is sore; I think I am coming down with a cold.

come forward

To support/ to take an initiative

The hospital is anxious for more donors to come forward.

Who will come forward and take the responsibility?

come from somewhere

To originate in

He resides in Brazil although he comes from Spain.

Most of the stench comes from the open drain behind the house.

count on someone/something

To rely on a person or thing

Can I count on you to complete this essay by tonight?

I could not complete the task so I am counting on you to do it.

crosssomething out

To draw a line through something

Kindly cross out your old telephone number and write the new one.

That word is wrong and you need to cross it out as soon as possible.

cut back on something

To use or consume less of something

My financial advisor has asked me to cut back on unnecessary expenditure.

We need to cut back on driving since the price of petrol is at an all-time high.

cut into

To interrupt in between something or someone

He cut into the argument with a point of his own.

He asked if could cut in on the dance between Tim and me.

cutsomething off

To cut something with something sharp

The butter is frozen. Cut off a small blob and let it rest outside so that it melts faster.

He cut off a small piece from the large slab of cheese using a knife.

cutsomething off

To stop providing/to break all relations with someone

The cable company cut off our connection because we did not pay our bill.

After he was convicted, his family decided to cut him off.

cutsomething out

To remove pieces or part of something

She looked over the article and cut the introduction out and rewrote it.

She cut a piece out of the chunk of cheese and placed it on the counter.

dosomething over

To do something again

You sang the wrong words this time; we will have to do it over.

My homework assignment was unacceptable, so my teacher asked me to do it over.

do away with something

To dispose of or discard something

It is time to do away with all these old files.

My mother asked me to do away with all the unusable toys.

dress up

To be dressed in a fancier or better way than normal

The party is at a fancy restaurant so we need to dress up appropriately.

I was asked to dress up for the mayor’s party.

drop back

To move back in a position

He dropped back to fifth position because he fell off his motorcycle.

The coach asked the attacking players to drop back.

drop in/by/over

To come without an appointment

I thought I’d drop in and say hi.

I was surprised when she dropped in unannounced at midnight.

drop someone/something off

To take someone/something somewhere and leave them/it there

Can you drop me off at the bus stop?

I will drop him off at the train station before reaching the venue.

drop out

To quit a class, school, etc.

He dropped out of the chess club because it was too difficult for him.

She dropped out of college but managed to set up her own company.

eat out

To eat outside of home, usually in a restaurant

I eat out almost five days a week.

I do not feel like cooking today so let’s eat out?

end up

To do/to eventually reach/to decide

If you do not work, you will end up on the streets.

He studied history at college but ended up working at a bank.

fall apart

To break into pieces

This wall will fall apart if we do not use cement.

The house of cards stood for a minute but then fell apart.

fall down

To fall on the ground/ to fall off from somewhere to the ground

If he does not walk carefully on the ledge, he will fall down.

He was walking carelessly and thus, fell down.

fall out

To separate

The veteran cricketer has fallen out of favour.

The coach and the player had a fall out and the latter decided to quit.

figuresomething out

To study/understand

She needs to figure out what the problem is.

We need to figure out the route before commencing the trek.

fillsomething in

To write information in a form, etc.

Fill in the blank spaces and submit the sheet.

You must fill in the form in order to obtain a ticket.

fillsomething up

To fill something completely or to the top

I want you to fill up the tank with diesel.

She wanted to fill up the entire glass with wine.

find out

To search/discover

How do I find out where he lives?

I need you to find out whether he is lying or not.

getsomething across/over

To communicate

He is a good orator and has no problem getting his message across.

He could not get across the message.

get along/on

To like each other

One must get along with their colleagues.

It is about time you buried the hatchet and got along with each other

get away

To go on a vacation or a leave

They are planning a romantic get away for their anniversary.

We have not travelled in a while so we are planning a getaway this summer.

get away with something

do something (usually something wrong) without being noticed or punished

He will not get away with an abusive remark like that.

You cannot steal cars in broad daylight and expect to get away with it.

get back

To return

She did not get back home until 5 o’clock.

The boss needs you to get back from the Bahamas and complete the report.

get back atsomeone

To retaliate/to take a revenge

My brother got back at me for eating his piece of cake.

After being humiliated in public, she decided to get back at her with ruthless intent.

get onsomething

To step onto something

The train was full so we could not get on.

To reach the chandelier, you must get on the stool.

get oversomething

To recover/overcome

The stock market is slowly getting over the recession.

You need to get over the fact that he stole your bicycle.

get together

To meet

Do you want to get together this Saturday?

Let’s get together at the mall this weekend.

get up

To stand/get out of bed

Please get up, this seat is reserved for ladies.

You are not allowed to sit there, so, kindly get up.

givesomething away

To reveal/give something for free/donate

The ice cream company is giving away free scoops tomorrow.

Before dying, he had pledged to give away half his money to charity.

givesomething back

To return

You must give the bone back to the dog.

You have her mobile phone and need it give it back to her.

give in

To unwillingly stop fighting or arguing

The dictator finally gave in to the mounting pro-democracy protests.

After arguing for over two hours, I decided to give in to her demands.

give up

To stop trying

This exam is really difficult and I think I am going to give up.

Never give up, never surrender!

go aftersomeone

To follow someone

The big dog is going to go after the cat.

The police decided to go after the criminal after he had robbed a bank.”

go aftersomething

To try to achieve something

My father always encouraged me to go after my goals.

She is really working hard going after the top prize.

go againstsomeone or something

To oppose

Does he really want to go against the policies of the company?

You cannot go against the coach and expect to remain with the team.

go ahead

To proceed/start/initiate something

The General wants us to go ahead with the plan.

The centre has asked the states to go ahead with FDI in the retail sector.

go back

To return to a place

This place is very dangerous; I suggest you go back home.

He needs us to go back to the office and collect his belongings.”

go out

To leave home to go out for an occasion, etc.

Let’s go out for dinner tonight to celebrate your promotion!

I will go out in the evening to watch the play.

go out withsomeone

To date someone

Tim has wanted to go out with Mary for a long time now.

She is going out with two boys at the same time.

go oversomething

To pay a visit to someone/something nearby

It’s great that Hari has moved next door; I can just go over to his place whenever I’m bored!

She is going over to his place later tonight.

go over

To check or review

Here are your insurance papers, please go over them carefully so that you know all the details.

We need to go over this brochure and select a location for the meeting.

grow apart

To end a friendship

We used to be great friends, but after college we began to grow apart.

We were good friends but grew apart after graduating from college.

grow up

To become an adult

It is always hard for parents when their children grow up.

The puppy was tiny when they found it but it grew up to be a huge dog.

grow out of something

To get too big for something, usually a piece of clothing

I will buy a new pair of trousers if and when I grow out of this pair.

I have gained weight and grown out of the pants I purchased last summer.

grow intosomething

To grow big enough to fit

Initially he had some trouble at the new office, but things went smoothly after he grew into his role.

She has become taller and grown into the dress.

handsomething down

To give something used to someone else

When I was a child, I was handed down my brother’s clothes.

Please hand down your old books to underprivileged children.

handsomething out

To distribute to a group of people

The party members were spreading their propaganda by handing out fliers.

The boss is going to hand out a list of responsibilities to everybody today.

handsomething over

To give (usually unwillingly)

The thieves asked us to hand over all our belongings.

The landlord requested us to hand over the keys to the apartment.

hang in

To stay strong and positive

When my friend was diagnosed with cancer, all I could say to him was, “Don’t lose hope. Hang in there.”

Don’t lose heart, hang in there!

hang on

To wait for a short time

Hang on, let me get ready and then we can leave.

Hang on, I’m coming too!

hang out

To spend time relaxing or chilling out

My friends and I generally hang out at malls.

Let’s hang out at the bar after work tonight.

hang up

To end a phone call

When I get angry with someone on the phone, I simply hang up.

I did not wish to talk to him anymore so I decided to hang up the phone.

hold someone/something back

To prevent from doing/going

If you have a complaint, don’t hold back; you cannot fix the problem if you do not voice it.

You must hold him back from committing such a dangerous stunt.

holdsomething back

To hide an emotion/to be stopped by something or someone

He was a great athlete, but he was held back from succeeding by his parents, who wanted him to study instead.

He held back his tears even though he was distraught.

hold on

To wait for a short time

She asked the taxi driver to hold on while she located her wallet.

He has asked you to hold on to his book until he returns.

keep on doing something

continue doing

He asked them to keep on working while he looked around.

The musicians kept on playing even though it was raining.

keepsomething from someone

To not tell/not do/to keep a secret

Why do you keep secrets from me?

You have a wonderful voice so you must not keep from singing.

keep someone/something out

To stop someone or something from entering at a place

The insects must be kept out at all costs.

The gate has been installed to keep out stray dogs.

keepsomething up

To continue at the same rate

Keep up the good work!

Keep up this speed for the rest of the journey and we will reach on time.

letsomeone down

To disappoint someone

You can rely on her; she will never let you down.

You have let me down with this disappointing performance.

letsomeone in

To permit to enter

Please lock the door and do not let anybody in.

Yes, he is a guest so please let him in.

look after someone/something

To take care of

Nurses are supposed to look after patients.

I need you to look after my dog while I’m away.

look down on someone

To belittle someone/ to consider someone inferior to oneself

She always looks down on her staff and treats them badly.

A lot of people look down on them because they are poor.

look for someone/something

To try to find

Do you want to look for the pen we lost yesterday?

Let us look for the ball in the garage.

look forward to something

To be excited about some future plan, etc.

Are you looking forward to tonight’s football match?

I am really looking forward to the weekend!

look intosomething

To investigate

We are going to look into the price of cars today.

They need to look into the matter carefully in order to avoid a lawsuit.

look out

To be careful

Don’t forget to look out for mosquitoes in the swamp.

Look out for speeding buses on the highway.

look out for someone/something

To be extra careful or vigilant

The guide told them to look out for pickpockets in the marketplace.

Look out for hurricane alerts on the island at this time of the year.

looksomething over

To check/examine

Give the document a look over for errors.

The teacher wants the student to look over his answers once again.

look up tosomeone

To respect someone immensely

I look up to my sister because she is a wonderful human being.

I look up to my coach because he was a great sportsman.

makesomething up

To lie about something

When asked why I hadn’t done my homework, I made up a story about having done it but forgotten that that day was the day of submission.

You must stop making up stories because we know you are lying.

make up

To forgive each other

He returned my money very late, but tried to make up for it by treating me to lunch.

He is taking her out to dinner to make up for being at work on their anniversary.

makesomeone up

To apply cosmetics

She was so nervous she almost went on stage without any make up.

That actor uses a lot of make up before shooting a scene.

mixsomething up

To get confused

We got through most of the show without any mix ups, but right at the end the lead actor forgot one of his lines.

The experienced striker pounced on a defensive mix-up to fire home into an open goal.

pass away

To die

I took two weeks off work because my grandfather passed away.

Our dog had been ill for a few months and passed away last night.

pass out

To lose consciousness

It was so hot in the examination hall that one of the students passed out for a couple of minutes.

He walking in the sun and passed out due to the heat.

paysomeone back

To return the owed money

There should be no money issues between friends, so when I lend money to my friends I tell them they can pay back whenever it is convenient for them.

You can borrow money now but you must pay back within a week.

pay forsomething

To be punished for doing something bad

It is my policy to pay for everything when I am out on a date.

The police swore that the terrorist would pay for destroying the building.

picksomething out

To choose

I always let my mother pick out my clothes, because she has excellent taste.

The concierge at the hotel helped us pick out a nice restaurant.

Point someone/something out

To point or indicate using your finger

I tried to give the tourists directions orally, but they couldn’t understand me, so I pointed out the turning they were supposed to take.

I have asked the professor to point out all the mistakes in my assignment.

putsomething off

To postpone

I was very tired that day, so I put off the meeting till after the weekend.

The boss has asked us to put off our lunch plan to a later hour.

putsomething together

To assemble

We had to put together the presentation in 2 days.

The different parts have been provided in order to put together this mountain bike.

put up with someone/something

To bear or tolerate something or someone

My roommate told me to move out, saying, “I can’t put up with your irresponsible ways anymore!”

The company is not going to put up with inappropriate behaviour at the workplace.

putsomething on

To wear a dress/accessories on your body

I did not need to put on the t-shirt to know it was too big for me.

Pick out a dress, put it on, and decide whether you like it or not.

run into someone/something

To meet someone unexpectedly

I ran into an old friend from college the other day.

It was a pleasant surprise when I ran into him at the mall the other day.

run over someone/something

To drive a vehicle over a person or thing

Your toy is broken because I ran over it with my car.

The truck accidently ran over a cat on the highway.

run away

To leave unexpectedly/ to escape

The bride had run away with someone else on the wedding day.

The children made a plan to run away from home to join the circus.”

run out

To have nothing left of something

They ran out of sandwiches at the cafe.

She couldn’t make tea as they had run out of milk.

sendsomething back

To return

I sent back the steak because it raw.

This product is not what we had ordered and we are going to send it back.

setsomething up

To arrange/organize

They want to set up a lemonade stall at the fair.

The government needs to set up a commission for the riot victims.

setsomeone up

To trick/trap someone or something

The hunter set the lion up for the trap but it escaped.

The people at the bank were part of a set up by the police to catch the criminal.

show off

To act boastfully when people watch

He wants to show off his house by illuminating it.

Most people simply love to show off their wealth in front of their friends.

sleep over

To stay somewhere out of home, for the night

Jack is planning a sleepover at his place on his birthday.

The first sleepover at a friend’s place can be a big deal for some children.

sortsomething out

To organise/ to resolve a situation

You may want the lawyers to sort the issue out.

We need to sort out these cards and arrange them according to size.

stick tosomething

To continue doing something

You will not lose weight if you do not stick to the diet.

Most people do not stick to the same job for a long period.

switchsomething off

To turn off

Could you switch the light off please?

Please switch off the television before going to bed.

switchsomething on

To turn on

He turned the machine on again and it stopped making a noise.

Grandmother wants you to switch on the radio for her.

takesomething back

To return something

I need to take my money back from him.

He can keep my bag for now but I’m going to take it back tomorrow.”

take off

To start flying

I feel that the most thrilling part of any plane journey is when it takes off.

The plane finally took off after taxiing for twenty minutes.

takesomething off

To remove something (usually items of clothing)

I was about to take off my clothes when I realised there was someone else in the room.

I want you to take this off the list and include that instead.

takesomething out

To remove from a place

She took out some money from the safe.

Please take out the garbage after dinner.

takesomeone out

To take someone out with yourself and also to pay for them

My girlfriend was very depressed because she had lost her job so I took her out for dinner.

On the last day of college the professor took the students out for lunch.

tearsomething up

To rip something into pieces

My boss simply tears up the articles he doesn’t like.

The cat tore up the newspaper.

think back

To recall or remember

Whenever I think back to my school days, tears of nostalgia come to my eyes.

Think back to the time when we were at the beach.

thinksomething over

To consider

You must think this job offer over before taking a decision.

This is my proposal, think it over, and let me know.

throwsomething away

To trash something or to dispose of

I like that bag, please do not throw it away.

These dirty clothes need to be thrown away.

turnsomething down

To decrease the volume

I want to turn down the volume.

The old man has asked me to turn down the volume.

turnsomething down

To refuse

He asked her to marry him but she turned him down.

He turned down the offer from ABC Corporation.

turnsomething off

To switch off

He turned off the lights before going to bed.

Please turn off the fans when you leave.

turnsomething on

To switch on

She forgot to turn on the charger so her cell stayed off.

He asked her to turn on the coffee machine.

trysomething out

To test

Do you want to try out this new shampoo?

Most people refrain from trying out a new cuisine.

usesomething up

To use something entirely or to finish all

I get very tense when my friends come over because they use up all my supplies.

I cannot print this page because all the ink in the printer has been used up.

wake up

To stop sleeping

I generally wake up at about 7 in the morning.

You need to wake up early in the morning for karate practice.

warm up

To prepare the body for exercise

It is a good idea to warm up before engaging in strenuous physical activity.

It is essential to warm up a little before swimming.

wear off

To diminish in quality because of frequent use

The difference between superior and inferior products is that the latter wear out much more quickly.

The sole of this old shoe has worn out.

work out

To exercise

My lifestyle has gotten so sedentary since I joined the office that I have signed up for daily work outs at the gym.

Only a few people take gym memberships to actually work out.

work out

To be successful with something

I really hope that things work out for you.

This job will work out only if I can get my own office.

In each of the above cases, the phrasal verb shares no similarity with the verb that it replaces. These are ‘idiomatic’ phrasal verbs, commonly used in informal, everyday speech. Phrasal verbs are not necessarily idiomatic, though; they can be literal as well. For example, literal phrases such as look up, walk across and switch off are also considered phrasal verbs, because the action described by each cannot be described if any of the words in the phrase are omitted. If ‘up’ is taken out of ‘look up’, the description of the action will be incomplete.