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 memorise many at once. Use the list below as a reference guide when you find an expression that you don’t recognise.

The example sentences 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.

 

phrasal verb meaning example sentence
ask out invite on a date Brian asked Judy out to dinner and a movie.
ask around ask many people the same question I asked around but nobody has seen my wallet.
add up to equal Your purchases add up to $205.32.
back up reverse You’ll have to back up your car so that I can get out.
back up support My wife backed me up over my decision to quit my job.
blow up explode The racing car blew up after it crashed into the fence.
blow up add air We have to blow 50 balloons up for the party.
break down stop functioning (vehicle, machine) Our car broke down at the side of the highway in the snowstorm.
break down get upset The woman broke down when the police told her that her son had died.
break down divide into smaller parts Our teacher broke the final project downinto three separate parts.
break in force entry to a building Somebody broke in last night and stole our stereo.
break into enter forcibly The firemen had to break into the room to rescue the children.
break in wear sthg a few times so that it doesn’t look/feel new I need to break these shoes in before we run next week.
break in interrupt The TV station broke in to report the news of the president’s death.
break up end a relationship My boyfriend and I broke up before I moved to America.
break up start laughing (informal) The kids just broke up as soon as the clown started talking.
break out escape The prisoners broke out of jail when the guards weren’t looking.
break out in develop a skin condition I broke out in a rash after our camping trip.
bring down make unhappy This sad music is bringing me down.
bring up raise a child My grandparents brought me up after my parents died.
bring up start talking about a subject My mother walks out of the room when my father brings up sports.
bring up vomit He drank so much that he brought his dinner up in the toilet.
call around phone many different places/people We called around but we weren’t able to find the car part we needed.
call back return a phone call I called the company back but the offices were closed for the weekend.
call off cancel Jason called the wedding off because he wasn’t in love with his fiancé.
call on ask for an answer or opinion The professor called on me for question 1.
call on visit sby We called on you last night but you weren’t home.
call up phone Give me your phone number and I will callyou up when we are in town.
calm down relax after being angry You are still mad. You need to calm downbefore you drive the car.
not care for not like (formal) I don’t care for his behaviour.
catch up get to the same point as sby else You’ll have to run faster than that if you want to catch up with Marty.
check in arrive and register at a hotel or airport We will get the hotel keys when we check in.
check out leave a hotel You have to check out of the hotel before 11:00 AM.
check out look at carefully, investigate The company checks out all new employees.
check out look at (informal) Check out the crazy hair on that guy!
cheer up become happier She cheered up when she heard the good news.
cheer up make happier I brought you some flowers to cheer you up.
chip in help If everyone chips in we can get the kitchen painted by noon.
clean up tidy, clean Please clean up your bedroom before you go outside.
come across find unexpectedly I came across these old photos when I was tidying the closet.
come apart separate The top and bottom come apart if you pull hard enough.
come down with become sick My nephew came down with chicken pox this weekend.
come forward volunteer for a task or to give evidence The woman came forward with her husband’s finger prints.
come from some place originate in The art of origami comes from Asia.
count on rely on I am counting on you to make dinner while I am out.
cross out draw a line through Please cross out your old address and write your new one.
cut back on consume less My doctor wants me to cut back on sweets and fatty foods.
cut down make sthg fall to the ground We had to cut the old tree in our yard down after the storm.
cut in interrupt Your father cut in while I was dancing with your uncle.
cut in pull in too closely in front of another vehicle The bus driver got angry when that car cut in.
cut in start operating (of an engine or electrical device) The air conditioner cuts in when the temperature gets to 22°C.
cut off remove with sthg sharp The doctors cut off his leg because it was severely injured.
cut off stop providing The phone company cut off our phone because we didn’t pay the bill.
cut off take out of a will My grandparents cut my father off when he remarried.
cut out remove part of sthg (usually with scissors and paper) I cut this ad out of the newspaper.
do over beat up, ransack (BrE, informal) He’s lucky to be alive. His shop was done over by a street gang.
do over do again (AmE) My teacher wants me to do my essay over because she doesn’t like my topic.
do away with discard It’s time to do away with all of these old tax records.
do up fasten, close Do your coat up before you go outside. It’s snowing!
dress up wear nice clothing It’s a fancy restaurant so we have to dress up.
drop back move back in a position/group Andrea dropped back to third place when she fell off her bike.
drop in/ by/ over come without an appointment I might drop in/by/over for tea sometime this week.
drop off take sby/ sthg somewhere and leave them/it there I have to drop my sister off at work before I come over.
drop out quit a class, school etc I dropped out of Science because it was too difficult.
eat out eat at a restaurant I don’t feel like cooking tonight. Let’s eat out.
end up eventually reach/do/decide We ended up renting a movie instead of going to the theatre.
fall apart break into pieces My new dress fell apart in the washing machine.
fall down fall to the ground The picture that you hung up last night fell down this morning.
fall out separate from an interior The money must have fallen out of my pocket.
fall out (of hair, teeth) become loose and unattached His hair started to fall out when he was only 35.
figure out understand, find the answer I need to figure out how to fit the piano and the bookshelf in this room.
fill in to write information in blanks, as on a form (BrE) Please fill in the form with your name, address, and phone number.
fill out to write information in blanks, as on a form (AmE) The form must be filled out in capital letters.
fill up fill to the top I always fill the water jug up when it is empty.
find out discover We don’t know where he lives. How can we find out?
find out discover We tried to keep the time of the party a secret, but Samantha found it out.
get across/ over communicate, make understandable I tried to get my point across/over to the judge but she wouldn’t listen.
get along/on like each other I was surprised how well my new girlfriend and my sister got along/on.
get around have mobility My grandfather can get around fine in his new wheelchair.
get away go on a vacation We worked so hard this year that we had to get away for a week.
get away with do without being noticed or punished Jason always gets away with cheating in his maths tests.
get back return We got back from our vacation last week.
get back receive sthg you had before Liz finally got her Science notes back from my room-mate.
get back at retaliate, take revenge My sister got back at me for stealing her shoes. She stole my favourite hat.
get back into become interested in sthg again I finally got back into my novel and finished it.
get on step onto a vehicle We’re going to freeze out here if you don’t let us get on the bus.
get over recover from an illness, loss, difficulty I just got over the flu and now my sister has it.
get over overcome a problem The company will have to close if it can’t get over the new regulations.
get round to finally find time to do (AmE: get around to sthg) I don’t know when I am going to get round to writing the thank you cards.
get together meet (usually for social reasons) Let’s get together for a BBQ this weekend.
get up get out of bed I got up early today to study for my exam.
get up stand You should get up and give the elderly man your seat.
give away reveal hidden information about sby His wife gave him away to the police.
give away take the bride to the altar My father gave me away at my wedding.
give away ruin a secret My little sister gave the surprise party awayby accident.
give away give sthg to sby for free The library was giving away old books on Friday.
give back return a borrowed item I have to give these skates back to Franz before his hockey game.
give in reluctantly stop fighting or arguing My boyfriend didn’t want to go to the ballet, but he finally gave in.
give out give to many people (usually at no cost) They were giving out free perfume samples at the department store.
give up quit a habit I am giving up smoking as of January 1st.
give up stop trying My maths homework was too difficult so I gave up.
go after follow sby My brother tried to go after the thief in his car.
go after try to achieve sthg I went after my dream and now I am a published writer.
go against compete, oppose We are going against the best soccer team in the city tonight.
go ahead start, proceed Please go ahead and eat before the food gets cold.
go back return to a place I have to go back home and get my lunch.
go out leave home to go on a social event We’re going out for dinner tonight.
go out with date Jesse has been going out with Luke since they met last winter.
go over review Please go over your answers before you submit your test.
go over visit sby nearby I haven’t seen Tina for a long time. I think I’ll go over for an hour or two.
go without suffer lack or deprivation When I was young, we went without winter boots.
grow apart stop being friends over time My best friend and I grew apart after she changed schools.
grow back regrow My roses grew back this summer.
grow into grow big enough to fit This bike is too big for him now, but he should grow into it by next year.
grow out of get too big for Elizabeth needs a new pair of shoes because she has grown out of her old ones.
grow up become an adult When Jack grows up he wants to be a fireman.
hand down give sthg used to sby else I handed my old comic books down to my little cousin.
hand in submit I have to hand in my essay by Friday.
hand out to distribute to a group of people We will hand out the invitations at the door.
hand over give (usually unwillingly) The police asked the man to hand over his wallet and his weapons.
hang in stay positive (informal) Hang in there. I’m sure you’ll find a job very soon.
hang on wait a short time (informal) Hang on while I grab my coat and shoes!
hang out spend time relaxing (informal) Instead of going to the party we are just going to hang out at my place.
hang up end a phone call He didn’t say goodbye before he hung up.
hold back prevent from doing/going I had to hold my dog back because there was a cat in the park.
hold back hide an emotion Jamie held back his tears at his grandfather’s funeral.
hold on wait a short time Please hold on while I transfer you to the Sales Department.
hold onto hold firmly using your hands or arms Hold onto your hat because it’s very windy outside.
hold up rob A man in a black mask held the bank up this morning.
keep on doing continue doing Keep on stirring until the liquid comes to a boil.
keep from not tell We kept our relationship from our parents for two years.
keep out stop from entering Try to keep the wet dog out of the living room.
keep up continue at the same rate If you keep those results up you will get into a great college.
let down fail to support or help, disappoint I need you to be on time. Don’t let me downthis time.
let in allow to enter Can you let the cat in before you go to school?
log in (or on) sign in (to a website, database etc) I can’t log in to Facebook because I’ve forgotten my password.
log out (or off) sign out (of a website, database etc) If you don’t log off somebody could get into your account.
look after take care of I have to look after my sick grandmother.
look down on think less of, consider inferior Ever since we stole that chocolate bar your dad has looked down on me.
look for try to find I’m looking for a red dress for the wedding.
look forward to be excited about the future I’m looking forward to the Christmas break.
look into investigate We are going to look into the price of snowboards today.
look out be careful, vigilant, and take notice Look out! That car’s going to hit you!
look out for be especially vigilant for Don’t forget to look out for snakes on the hiking trail.
look over check, examine Can you look over my essay for spelling mistakes?
look up search and find information in a reference book or database We can look her phone number up on the Internet.
look up to have a lot of respect for My little sister has always looked up to me.
make up invent, lie about sthg Josie made up a story about why we were late.
make up forgive each other We were angry last night, but we made upat breakfast.
make up apply cosmetics to My sisters made me up for my graduation party.
mix up confuse two or more things I mixed up the twins’ names again!
pass away die His uncle passed away last night after a long illness.
pass out faint It was so hot in the church that an elderly lady passed out.
pass out give the same thing to many people The professor passed the textbooks outbefore class.
pass up decline (usually sthg good) I passed up the job because I am afraid of change.
pay back return owed money Thanks for buying my ticket. I’ll pay you back on Friday.
pay for be punished for doing sthg bad That bully will pay for being mean to my little brother.
pick out choose I picked out three sweaters for you to try on.
point out indicate with your finger I’ll point my boyfriend out when he runs by.
put down put what you are holding on a surface or floor You can put the groceries down on the kitchen counter.
put down insult, make sby feel stupid The students put the substitute teacher down because his pants were too short.
put off postpone We are putting off our trip until January because of the hurricane.
put out extinguish The neighbours put the fire out before the firemen arrived.
put together assemble I have to put the crib together before the baby arrives.
put up with tolerate I don’t think I can put up with three small children in the car.
put on put clothing/ accessories on your body Don’t forget to put on your new earrings for the party.
run into meet unexpectedly I ran into an old school-friend at the mall.
run over drive a vehicle over a person or thing I accidentally ran over your bicycle in the driveway.
run over/ through rehearse, review Let’s run over/through these lines one more time before the show.
run away leave unexpectedly, escape The child ran away from home and has been missing for three days.
run out have none left We ran out of shampoo so I had to wash my hair with soap.
send back return (usually by mail) My letter got sent back to me because I used the wrong stamp.
set up arrange, organize Our boss set a meeting up with the president of the company.
set up trick, trap The police set up the car thief by using a hidden camera.
shop around compare prices I want to shop around a little before I decide on these boots.
show off act extra special for people watching (usually boastfully) He always shows off on his skateboard
sleep over stay somewhere for the night (informal) You should sleep over tonight if the weather is too bad to drive home.
sort out organize, resolve a problem We need to sort the bills out before the first of the month.
stick to continue doing sthg, limit yourself to one particular thing You will lose weight if you stick to the diet.
switch off stop the energy flow, turn off The light’s too bright. Could you switch it off.
switch on start the energy flow, turn on We heard the news as soon as we switched on the car radio.
take after resemble a family member I take after my mother. We are both impatient.
take apart purposely break into pieces He took the car brakes apart and found the problem.
take back return an item I have to take our new TV back because it doesn’t work.
take off start to fly My plane takes off in five minutes.
take off remove sthg (usually clothing) Take off your socks and shoes and come in the lake!
take out remove from a place or thing Can you take the garbage out to the street for me?
take out pay for sby to go somewhere with you My grandparents took us out for dinner and a movie.
tear up rip into pieces I tore up my ex-boyfriend’s letters and gave them back to him.
think back remember (often + to, sometimes + on) When I think back on my youth, I wish I had studied harder.
think over consider I’ll have to think this job offer over before I make my final decision.
throw away dispose of We threw our old furniture away when we won the lottery.
turn down decrease the volume or strength (heat, light etc) Please turn the TV down while the guests are here.
turn down refuse I turned the job down because I don’t want to move.
turn off stop the energy flow, switch off Your mother wants you to turn the TV offand come for dinner.
turn on start the energy, switch on It’s too dark in here. Let’s turn some lights on.
turn up increase the volume or strength (heat, light etc) Can you turn the music up? This is my favourite song.
turn up appear suddenly Our cat turned up after we put posters up all over the neighbourhood.
try on sample clothing I’m going to try these jeans on, but I don’t think they will fit.
try out test I am going to try this new brand of detergent out.
use up finish the supply The kids used all of the toothpaste up so we need to buy some more.
wake up stop sleeping We have to wake up early for work on Monday.
warm up increase the temperature You can warm your feet up in front of the fireplace.
warm up prepare body for exercise I always warm up by doing sit-ups before I go for a run.
wear off fade away Most of my make-up wore off before I got to the party.
work out exercise I work out at the gym three times a week.
work out be successful Our plan worked out fine.
work out make a calculation We have to work out the total cost before we buy the house.

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