We are going to talk about one of the most important but frustrating parts of learning English and that is phrasal verbs!
We often hear phrases like; pick me up at 5 pm, ask her out, get over it, called off the meeting, look after my dog, looking forward to it, etc. Such phrases consist of phrasal verbs.
What are the phrasal verbs? 50 phrasal verbs with meaning and examples
Phrasal verbs are two or more words when combined together they form a new word. This new word has a different meaning from the original words.
So usually two or three words together form a short “phrase”, and they are called phrasal verbs.
Phrasal verbs are verbs that are very popular in spoken English. But at the same time, they are quite confusing and difficult to learn and remember.
It is because they have different meanings than the words used to form the phrasal verbs. You may find it difficult to guess their meanings.
For example, Come is a verb. Come across is a phrasal verb. But “come across” has a completely different meaning from the meaning of come and across.
There are thousands of phrasal verbs we use in the English language. So, how can you know all of them?
Well, there is no shortcut for this. You will have to learn them separately like any other verb you learn in English.
However, to make it easy to understand for you we are going to discuss it in detail here. Also, we’ll see 50 phrasal verbs with meaning and examples.
Table of Contents
- What are the phrasal verbs? Explanation!
- Types Of Phrasal Verbs
- 50 Phrasal Verbs With Meaning And Examples
What are the phrasal verbs? Explanation!
A combination of a simple verb with an adverb and/or a preposition is known as a phrasal verb. Basically, it’s a verb that consists of two or three words. Verbs, adverbs, and prepositions are parts of speech.
Phrasal verbs are very common in day-to-day English conversations. Especially in informal situations, phrasal verbs are used more often.
There are three different ways the phrasal verbs are formed.
The 3 ways the phrasal verbs are formed:-
• Combination of a verb and an adverb
For example, Call off
• Combination of a verb and a preposition
For example, Carry on
• Combination of a verb, an adverb and a preposition
For example, Fall back on
When combined (two or three words) they make an entirely new verb. This new verb usually has a different meaning than each original word.
You should always treat a phrasal verb as an entirely new and independent word and learn them separately.
Phrasal Verb Meaning
Phrasal verb meaning differs from the simple verb, which forms a phrasal verb. For example, “Call Off” is a phrasal verb, and it is formed using the verb “Call”. However, this phrasal verb meaning is different from the verb “Call”.
Call means to call someone. For example,
Can you call him?
I called him last night.
But, the meaning of “call off” is different from the meaning of “call“.
Call off means to cancel. For examples,
Monday’s meeting has been called off.
They called off their trip to Japan due to some family problems.
So, now you know “what are phrasal verbs”. Let’s go ahead and see how phrasal verbs are used in a sentence.
How phrasal verbs are used?
Let’s look at the given below examples to understand how phrasal verbs are used.
Susan asked me out last night. (Phrasal Verb – Ask out)
He backed out from his promise. (Phrasal Verb – Back out)
I asked him for help. (Phrasal Verb – Ask for)
Don’t panic! Please calm down. (Phrasal Verb – calm down)
You might be thinking about why we have separated the words of phrasal verbs in some sentences. Well, there is a reason for this. And that is an interesting point to discuss in our topic “what are the phrasal verbs.”
Types Of Phrasal Verbs
Most of the time, we do not split the words of the phrasal verbs. We use them as it is next to each other. However, there are also some phrasal verbs for which we can separate the words. So, the Phrasal Verbs can be of two types in terms of word order.
1. Separable and
Separable Phrasal Verbs
When there is a direct object in a sentence, we can either separate the words of the phrasal verb or use them together.
Drop off, we can use this phrasal verb both ways by separating the words or without separating them.
Can you drop off the parcel at my office?
Can you drop the parcel off at my office?
But, if the direct object in the sentence is a pronoun, then we have to separate the words. We cannot use them together in the case of a pronoun. The pronoun always comes in the middle of a separable phrasal verb.
My mother always drops me off at school. (Here, “me” is the pronoun, so we had to use it in the middle of the phrasal verb “drop off”)
You cannot say, “My mother always drops off me at school”. It’s incorrect.
So, the basic rule for the separable phrasal verbs is to separate the words if there is a pronoun. And, you can either separate or use them together if there is a direct object except for the pronoun.
Let’s see some more examples.
Phrasal Verb – Turn down
Please turn down the volume a bit. (Direct object without splitting the words)
Please turn the volume down a bit. (Direct object splitting the words)
The music here is so loud. Can you turn it down a bit? (Here we have a pronoun “it”, so we have to separate the words)
Phrasal Verb – Sort out
Can you sort out this issue before he finds it? (Direct object/without splitting the words)
Can you sort this issue out before he finds it? (Direct object/splitting the words)
Phrasal Verb – Take out
The garbage truck is waiting outside on the street, please take out the trash. (Direct object without splitting the words)
Please take the trash out. (Direct object splitting the words)
Dad, could you take us out for dinner tonight? (Here we have the pronoun “us”, so we have to separate the words)
Inseparable Phrasal Verbs
There are some phrasal verbs that cannot be separated, called Inseparable phrasal verbs.
Some Examples of such phrasal verbs are: ask around, look after, carry on, come across, etc.
How do you identify separable and inseparable phrasal verbs?
There is no fixed rule to identify separable and inseparable phrasal verbs. But, when you read a grammar book or dictionary, you will see “something/somebody” written with a separable phrasal verb.
For example, figure (something) out. It tells us that we can either say figure something out or figure out something.
I can’t figure out the problem with this computer.
You’ll have to figure it out yourself.
Whenever you learn a new phrasal verb, make sure you check if “something/somebody” is written or not. This will tell you the word order for using it in a sentence in case of a separable phrasal verb.
Our list of 50 phrasal verbs with meaning and examples given below will also help with that. But, remember one thing; you will have to learn them individually and practice them until it comes naturally to you.
50 Phrasal Verbs With Meaning And Examples
Let’s learn the commonly used 50 phrasal verbs with meaning and examples.
1. Account for
Meaning of account for: The meaning of account for is to explain how something happened or how someone did it.
My mother asked my brother to account for the money he spent.
My teacher asked me to account for the downfall of Adolf Hitler.
Her manager asked her to account for the failure of the project.
2. Act on
Meaning of act on: The meaning of act on is to take action or to have an effect on something.
i) Act on something: to take action as per the advice (to do something because you have been told to do so)
We should act on his suggestion to grow our business.
She never acts on her mother’s advice.
ii) Act on something: to have a particular effect on something.
Too much junk food can act on your health.
These medicines can act on your heart.
3. Ask out: Ask somebody out
Meaning of ask out: The meaning of ask out is to invite someone on a date.
I think she likes you. You should ask her out.
Tony asked Susan out to dinner yesterday.
4. Ask around:
Meaning of ask around: The meaning of ask around is to ask the same question to different people. When you ask around, you ask different people the same question to get information about someone or something.
If you don’t know where the bus stop is, you should ask around.
I don’t know a good place to hang out. I will ask around.
We lost our dog last week. Nobody saw him. We have already asked around.
5. Add up to:
Meaning of add up to something: equals to or total
Our vacation expenses add up to around $1500.
Their total assets add up to $10 million.
Your diner bill adds up to $250.
6. Back out
Meaning of back out: The meaning of back out is to withdraw from a commitment.
You decide not to fulfill your promise or commitment when you back out.
You cannot back out of this deal once you sign the agreement.
Tina backed out from her offer to help Mark with his startup.
I have already booked the tickets for tomorrow’s show. You can’t back out now.
7. Back up: Back something/somebody up
Meaning of back up: The meaning of back up is to reverse something or support something/somebody.
i) Back something up: to reverse
When you back up, you go back a little. Or, the vehicle you are driving moves backward slightly.
I think you are blocking the lane. You need to back up your truck
ii) Back something up: to supply evidence to prove a claim or story is true.
Your story doesn’t seem to be true. How will you back it up?
I have enough evidence to back up my story.
iii) Back somebody up: to support or defend
My father backed my sister up, even though he knew she was lying.
Why didn’t you back me up when everyone was making fun of me?
Though he was innocent, no one backed him up.
8. Blow out
Meaning of blow out:
I) Extinguished (put an end to) by an air current
Last night, the candles were blown out by the wind.
Did she blow out all the candles at once?
ii) Defeat someone easily
Team A was blown out by Team B.
iii) Damage badly
Diana blew out her knee while playing in the playground.
9. Blow up
Meaning of blow up: The meaning of blow up is to explode or to add air.
i) Blow up: to explode
They blew up the bridge and re-constructed it.
ii) Blow something up: to add air
Could you please blow these balloons up?
10. Break down
Meaning of break down: We can use break down in a couple of ways.
i) If a machine or vehicle breaks down, it stops working because it is damaged.
I couldn’t reach on time because my car broke down.
ii) If someone breaks down, he/she loses control of his/her emotion or becomes very upset.
When she heard the news of her mother’s death, she broke down completely.
iii) Break something down: To divide something into smaller parts to make it easier to understand or deal with.
Can you break down this employee data by joining date?
11. Carry away
Meaning of carry away: The meaning of carry away is to lose control of one’s feelings or emotions.
I told her not get carried away by her emotions.
People do stupid things when they are carried away by their feelings.
I apologize for my behaviour. I got carried away.
12. Carry on (something)
Meaning of carry on: The meaning of carry on is to continue to do something.
You must carry on with your studies.
I can’t carry on this project until I have enough funding.
You should carry on your family business, as this was your father’s wish.
13. Catch on (to something)
Meaning of catch on: The meaning of catch on is to understand and learn something.
It is difficult for me to catch on to the lifestyle of this city.
Don’t worry! You can easily catch on to this new lesson.
14. Catch up
Meaning of catch up: This phrase has several meanings.
i) Catch up with someone: To reach someone by walking faster than him/her.
Move faster, otherwise, they will soon catch up with us.
ii) Catch up with someone: To reach the same standard or level as someone is at.
His business is doing great. But don’t worry, we will catch up with him in the next 2 years.
My daughter will catch up with him. (reach the level or standard he has)
iii) Catch up on/with something: To spend time and effort making up for the lost time.
I was on vacation. Now I have to catch up on my studies.
You will have to work hard to catch up on this project, as you have already wasted a week.
iv) Caught up in something: If you are caught up in something, you are involved in it. (Usually unwillingly)
Sorry, I can’t make it to dinner tonight. I am caught up in some work.
15. Count on (something):
Meaning of count on: The meaning of count on is to expect something to happen.
Don’t count on him. He won’t come to your party tonight.
We are counting on your help in this matter.
16. Deal in:
Meaning of deal in: The meaning of deal in is to do business of something.
Our firm deals in wooden furniture.
His company doesn’t deal in cosmetics and beauty products.
17. Deal with:
Meaning of deal with:
I) To handle something/situation
You should let him deal with this problem.
ii) To talk about
This article deals with the burning issue of unemployment in the country.
18. Dig out: Dig something out
Meaning of dig out: To find something after an effort or difficulty.
Don’t lie to me. I can dig the truth out.
They dug out the hidden treasure.
19. Drag down: Drag someone down
Meaning of drag down: You feel weak or depressed if something drags you down.
The work pressure has dragged him down.
20. Fall apart:
Meaning of fall apart:
I) Something falls apart: breaks into pieces when it falls apart.
This statue is falling apart.
The bridge fell apart due to the heavy storm.
ii) Someone falls apart: the person who falls apart becomes emotionally disturbed.
Due to the huge loss in his business; he is falling apart.
She fell apart when she lost her mother.
21. Fall back on:
Meaning of fall back on: The meaning of fall back on is to turn for support or help in difficulty.
You should always have something/someone to fall back on. (You can go to someone for support or take help of something when you are in difficulty)
22. Fall upon:
Meaning of fall upon:
I) To attack suddenly
He was innocent. But, the mob fell upon him and beat him to death.
ii) An unpleasant thing happens to someone
Misfortune fell upon him, and he lost everything.
iii) If something falls upon someone, it becomes his or her responsibility or duty.
After the death of her husband, it fell upon her to run the family.
23. Figure out: Figure something out
Meaning of figure out:
I) To understand something (or understand the reason for something) by thinking about it or analyzing it
Something is wrong with my computer, but I can’t figure it out.
Can you figure out the error in this financial report?
ii) To find a solution to a problem
Don’t worry, we will figure something out for this problem.
My phone is dead. I need to figure out a way to contact my mother.
24. Frown upon something:
Meaning of frown upon: To disapprove of something
Interfaith marriages are still frowned upon in many societies.
25. Get along:
Meaning of get along: The meaning of get along is to have a friendly relationship with someone.
My kids don’t get along. They keep fighting all the time.
It takes time for her to get along with new people.
You should get along with your colleagues.
26. Get away with something:
Meaning of get away with: The meaning of get away with is to remain unpunished for doing something wrong/bad.
Police have found your fingerprint at the crime spot. Now, you cannot get away with this murder charge.
They always bully you. Why do you let them get away with this?
27. Get over something:
Meaning of get over:
I) To recover from an unpleasant experience
They can’t get over the death of their son.
You should get over your past and work for your future.
ii) To overcome a problem or difficulty.
I need your help to get over this difficult situation.
The world is still trying to get over the recent pandemic.
28. Give away:
Meaning of give away:
I) Give away something: To give something for free (as a present)
Some YouTubers give away some products that they review to their viewers.
ii) Give something away: To give some information away by mistake (information that should be kept as a secret)
He gave away the details of his new project to his rival while talking to them.
29. Give up:
Meaning of give up: To stop doing something or believing in it, or admit you cannot do it.
She gave up her drinking habit.
You should work hard and don’t give up until you succeed.
30. Hand over: Hand something over
Meaning of hand over: The meaning of hand over is to transfer something to someone. It could be a thing, a person, authority, control, or responsibility.
The CEO of XYZ company handed over his position to his son.
They handed the trucks over to the buyers.
The police found the lost kid and handed him over to his parents.
31. Hold out:
Meaning of hold out:
i) Hold out: To resist or survive in a difficult or dangerous situation.
We need backup. We cannot hold out these attacks for long.
In the movie “Cast Away”, Chuck Nolan (played by Tom Hanks) held out on a desolate island for several years.
ii) Hold out something: When you hold out something, you think or say that something is possible or likely to happen. That is, you offer a chance, hope, or possibility.
Scientists hold out the hope for a cure for the new deadly virus.
Rebecca is in the hospital. It has been four months now and still, there is no change in her condition. Her parents hold out little hope for her recovery.
32. Hold up:
Meaning of hold up:
i) Hold somebody up: To delay him/her.
He could not catch his flight as he was held up by the guards during the security check.
I will be late for dinner tonight as I am being held up by some work in the office.
ii) Hold somebody up: To point a weapon at someone and rob him.
Five masked men held up the people at the bank and robbed the bank.
Last night, someone held my uncle up and robbed him.
33. Keep away: Keep someone/something away
Meaning of keep away: To avoid going near something.
Junk food is not good for my health. So, I have decided to keep away from junk food.
Keep him away from water. (Don’t let him go near water)
34. Keep on:
Meaning of keep on: To continue something/keep doing it.
Keep on the good work. You will soon get a promotion.
He kept on driving all night to reach us by morning.
35. Keep to something:
Meaning of keep to: To stick to it.
My father always keeps to his promise.
We have to keep to this plan.
36. Keep up:
Meaning of keep up:
i) Keep up with something: To make sure to know about something that is happening or changing very fast.
I read newspapers to keep up with what’s happening around the world.
You should keep up with the latest changes in technology.
ii) Keep up with something: To change at the same rate to be able to cope with the change in something.
Technology is changing so fast that it is difficult for a non-technical person to keep up with it.
The recent increase in wages is so low that it cannot keep up with inflation.
iii) Keep something up: To continue to do it.
I started to learn piano, but I couldn’t keep it up for more than a week.
She is not happy with her new job and does not want to keep it up.
iv) Keep up with someone or something: To stay level or equal with someone or something.
He runs too fast. You cannot keep up with him.
How can we keep up with them? They are moving so fast.
37. Let off: Let somebody off
Meaning of let off: The meaning of let off is to let someone go without punishment. Sometimes a lighter punishment, or sometimes no punishment at all.
Criminals should not be let off. They should be punished as per the law.
My father would not let me off if he finds out what I did.
He was let off with a warning by his teacher.
38. Let out:
Meaning of let out: The meaning of let out is to make something (house, room, etc.) available for people to rent it.
You should let out your other apartment so that you can have an additional source of income.
39. Let down: Let someone down
Meaning of let down: The meaning of let down is to disappoint someone.
You promised me that you would never let me down.
Her father has lots of expectations from her. She is trying her best not to let him down.
40. Look for:
Meaning of look for: to search
She was looking for a job in this city.
Where were you? We were looking for you.
Excuse me! I am looking for Mr Brown. Do you know him?
41. Look forward to:
Meaning of look forward to: When you look forward to something (that is going to happen in the future), you feel excited about it.
We are looking forward to working with you on the new project.
We are looking forward to seeing you at dinner tonight.
Missy, I am really looking forward to your party this weekend.
42. Look into:
Meaning of look into: To examine/investigate something.
The government assured us that the matter would be looked into soon.
The income tax department is looking into the recent money laundering case.
43. Pass on: Pass something on
Meaning of pass on: To pass or transfer something to someone.
When I heard the news, I passed it on to my friends. (to pass on a piece of news, message or information)
You are infected. You must isolate yourself, otherwise, you will pass on the virus to others. (To transfer an infectious illness to someone)
Diseases such as diabetes, and high blood pressure (hypertension) can be passed on. (Diseases transferred to children through genes)
Can you pass me on to your complaint department? (To transfer someone to some other person/department)
44. Pass out:
Meaning of pass out: To leave any institute after completing a course or degree.
She left this city after passing out of college.
Thousands of students pass out of this medical college every year.
45. Pass away:
Meaning of pass away: We use this phrasal verb to tell that someone has died. It’s an indirect and polite way of saying that someone has died.
Mr Baker passed away last night.
46. Sell out:
Meaning of sell out:
i) Sell out: If you sell out of something, you sell all of it, and there is no longer any left for people to buy. Or, something is sold out, it is no longer available.
The nearby auto parts store has sold out of wheels and tyres. (none left for people to buy)
Tickets for tonight’s concert are sold out. (no more tickets are available)
ii) Sell out: To compromise one’s personal values, integrity, beliefs, or principles, for money or to gain something.
Some celebrities have sold out. They promote products that may be harmful to their audience.
I am not a sellout. I will never give up my beliefs and principles.
47. Settle for:
Meaning of settle for: To accept something that is not satisfactory. Someone does it because it is the safest or easiest thing to do, or when there is nothing else available.
Don’t settle for this low-paying job. You can get a better job if you upgrade your skills.
They had to settle for less amount to sell their house.
48. Settle down:
Meaning of settle down:
i) To get married, have kids, buy a house and live a quiet life in one place.
Our parents want us to get married and settle down.
I’ll soon settle down and have a family.
ii) When you become comfortable in a new environment, you settle down.
My son is trying to settle down in his new school.
Don’t worry! You will settle down in your new job.
iii) To become calm, quiet, or orderly
Everyone, please settle down, the magic show is about to begin.
We are hoping that things will settle down here soon.
49. Turn against: Turn someone/something against
Meaning of turn against The meaning of turn against is to stop supporting, trusting or liking someone or something. When you turn against something/someone, you start opposing it.
They are lying about me to turn you against me.
He lost the election as the people of this town turned against him and voted for someone else.
50. Turn down: Turn something down
Meaning of turn down:
i) To reject an offer, a proposal, or a request
Mona has turned down Robert’s marriage proposal.
I had to turn down the job offer because I wanted to do something else in life.
ii) To reduce the heat or sound of an equipment
Could you please turn the gas down? (reduce the flame)
The music here is very loud. Please turn the music down a bit. (reduce volume)