Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal Verbs

A phrasal verb is a verb that is composed of more than one word. It is composed of a regular verb plus a particle like up, on, in, or off.  When a particle is added to the regular verb, the meaning of the verb changes. For example, when the particle off is added to the verb drop, we get the phrasal verb drop off. The meaning of drop off is different from the meaning of drop. Drop off is a phrasal verb.

Click a letter to see phrasal verbs with beginning with that letter.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

to act up

Definition: to misbehave
Example: Carl has been acting up in school so his teacher gave him extra homework.
Explanation: Carl has been misbehaving in school so his teacher gave him extra homework as punishment.

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B

to black out

Definition: to lose consciousness
Example: After I bumped my head, I blacked out.
Explanation: After I bumped my head, I lost consciousness.

to bottom out

Definition: to reach the worst or lowest level
Example: I think the stock market has bottomed out.
Explanation: I think the stock market has reached the lowest level it will reach.

to brush up on

Definition: to review something in order to refresh one’s memory
Example: I need to brush up on my German. I’m going to Germany next month.
Explanation: I need to review my knowledge of German so that I can understand the language when I go to Germany next month.

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C

to call off

Definition: to cancel
Example: I called off the meeting because my flight arrived late.
Explanation: I cancelled the meeting because my flight arrived late.

to carry on

Definition: to continue
Example: Don’t stop because I’m here. Carry on with what you were doing.
Explanation: Don’t stop because I’m here. Continue with what you were doing.

to clean up

Definition: to pick up items that are lying around and not in their proper places (such as garbage, clothes or toys)
Also: to wash
Example: Joey, clean up this room right now! Then I want you to clean up for dinner.
Explanation: Joey, put your toys, clothes, books and other things in their proper places. Then wash your face and hands for dinner.

to clear up something

Definition: to make something understandable and not confusing, to fix a problem
Example: He cleared up the problem with my application. I gave it to the wrong person.
Explanation: He fixed the problem with my application. He gave it to the right person.

to come across

Definition: to find accidentally
Example: I came across an old photo album while I was cleaning the attic.
Explanation: I found an old photo album while I was cleaning the attic.

to come around

Definition: to finally cooperate or believe something after not cooperating or believing, to change one’s opinion
Example: I’ve been trying to get Mark to agree to manage the event, but he won’t come around.
Explanation: I’ve been trying to get Mark to agree to manage the event, but he continues to say no. He won’t agree to manage the event.

to come down with something

Definition: to become sick
Example: I don’t feel well. I think I’m coming down with the flu.
Explanation: I don’t feel well. I think I am becoming sick with the flu.

to cross out

Definition: to draw one or more lines through some writing
Example: I have crossed out so many words that my paper is a mess!
Explanation: I have drawn lines through so many incorrect words on my paper that now my paper looks very messy.

to cut off

Definition: to suddenly move one’s car directly in front of another moving car
(This often causes the car in back to brake suddenly in order to avoid hitting the car in front.)
Example: Hey! That car just cut me off!
(Said while driving a car.)
Explanation: Hey! That car quickly and suddenly got in front of my car without giving me any warning. We almost had an accident.

to cut out

Definition 1: to remove something by cutting it away from a larger thing
Example: I like to cut articles out of the newspaper.
Explanation: 1. I like to remove articles from the newspaper by cutting the paper.

Definition 2: to stop doing something
Example: Billy kept making loud noises while I was studying, so I told him to cut it out.
Explanation: I told Billy to stop making loud noises.

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D

to drop in (on)

Definition: to visit briefly and usually unexpectedly
Example 1: Sandy dropped in this afternoon.
Explanation: Sandy visited me for a short time this afternoon.
Example 2: Let’s drop in on Mark tomorrow.
Explanation: Let’s visit Mark tomorrow.

to drop off

Definition: to take someone or something to a place and leave it there
Example: I have to drop my son off at school.
Explanation: I have to take my son to school and leave him there. Then I will go somewhere else.

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E

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F

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G

to gear up (for something)

Definition: to prepare (for something)
Example: I need to gear up for my meeting with Mr. Smith.
Explanation: I need to prepare for my meeting with Mr. Smith.

to give up

Definition: to quit usually after a long struggle, to concede defeat
Example: I’ve been trying to complete this math problem all day. I give up!
Explanation: I finally stop trying to complete the problem after trying very hard.

to ground out

Definition: In baseball, to be put out by hitting a ground ball that is caught by a member of the other team.
Example: I grounded out at first.
Explanation: While playing baseball, I hit a ball to the ground near first base. The first baseman got me out.

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H

to hand in

Definition: to give something to someone (The “something” is often completed homework assignments, tests, or forms.)
Example: The students handed in their homework to the teacher.
Explanation: The students gave their homework to the teacher.

hang in (there)

Definition: to continue doing something trying or difficult, persevere
Example: Hang in there! You’ll get it!
(Said to someone trying to do something difficult.)
Explanation: Keep trying! You will succeed!

to hold on

Definition: to wait
Example: Hold on. I’ll be there in a minute.
Explanation: Wait for me. I’ll be there in a minute.

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I

to iron out

Definition: to resolve problems
Example: Jim and I finally ironed out our differences.
Explanation: Jim and I finally resolved our differences.

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J

to jump in

Definition: to get involved in something quickly; to speak, to join a conversation
Example 1: When she saw us cleaning up after the storm, she jumped right in and started to help.
Explanation: When she saw us cleaning up after the storm, she immediately started to help us. She did not wait for us to ask for her help.
Example 2: Feel free to jump in at any time.
Explanation: Please speak at any time. Please offer your opinion or your ideas in our discussion at any time. Just begin talking. Don’t wait for us to ask you.

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K

to keep an eye on something

Definition: to watch in order to protect something
Example: I asked my neighbor to keep an eye on my house while I am on vacation.
Explanation: I asked my neighbor to watch my house while I am on vacation. If there are any problems, he will take care of them. He will also collect my mail every day.

to keep on (doing something)

Definition: to continue to do something, to do something repeatedly
Example 1: He keeps on talking about the party.
Explanation: He continues to talk about the party.
Example 2: Someone keeps on calling me.
Explanation: Someone is repeatedly telephoning me.

to knock it off

Definition: to stop doing something
(This is usually used in the imperative. One person says this to another person when the first person doesn’t like what the second person is doing.)
Example: You are making too much noise and I’m trying to sleep. Knock it off!
Explanation: You are making too much noise and I’m trying to sleep. Stop making noise!

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L

to let down someone

Definition: to disappoint someone
Example: He let down his team when he didn’t go to the game.
Explanation: He disappointed his team because he did not go to the game.

to line up

Definition: to form a line
Example: Everybody line up near the door.
Explanation: Everybody form a line near the door.

to live up to

Definition: to fulfill expectations
Example: They don’t live up to their promises.
Explanation: They don’t do the things they claimed they could do or promised to do.

to look up

Definition: to search for information within an organized format such as a list
Example: 1. I’ll look up that word in the dictionary.
Explanation: I’ll search for that word in the dictionary.
Example 2: I need information about sharks for my school report. I’ll look it up on the internet.
Explanation: I need information about sharks for my school report. I’ll search for information on the internet.

Notice: We look things up in a dictionary but on the internet.

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M

to move on

Definition: to continue
Example 1: Let’s move on to chapter 2.
Explanation: Let’s continue by now looking at chapter 2.
Example 2: After the death of my husband, it was hard to move on.
Explanation: After the death of my husband, it was hard to begin living a normal life again.

Note: This is usually used to continue something in progression or to continue after a difficulty.

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P

to pay up

Definition: to completely pay what one owes
Example: I was paying only a little bit of my bill each month, but now I’m all paid up.
Explanation: I was paying only a little bit of my bill each month, but now I have paid it completely.

to pick out

Definition: to choose
Example: You picked out a good restaurant. I love the food here.
Explanation: You chose a good restaurant because they have good food.

to pull over

Definition: to move a vehicle to the side of the road and then stop the vehicle
Example: The police officer pulled me over because I was speeding.
Explanation: The police officer made me move my car to the side of the road so that he could talk to me about my speeding.

to push on (with)

Definition: to continue (with)
Example: I must push on with my project.
Explanation: I must continue working on my project.

to put off

Definition: to postpone
Example: I put off doing my homework to watch television.
Explanation: I postponed doing my homework so that I could watch television first.

to put someone up

Definition: to provide temporary accommodations for someone
Example: John needed a place to stay, so we put him up for a few nights.
Explanation: John needed a place to stay, so we let him live in our home for a few nights.

to put up with

Definition: to tolerate or endure someone or something
Example: I can’t put up with this noise anymore. Let’s go talk someplace else.
Explanation: I can’t tolerate this noise anymore. Let’s go talk someplace else.
(This would be said in a very noisy place before moving to a quieter location.)

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R

to be rained out

Definition: to be cancelled because of rain
Example: We were unhappy because the picnic was rained out.
Explanation: We were unhappy that the picnic was cancelled because it was raining.

to roll out

Definition: to introduce a new product or program
Example: Our company just rolled out our newest model. We expect sales to be very high.
Explanation: Our company just introduced our newest model to consumers. We have begun our sales program and expect sales to be very high.

to rope someone in

Definition: to persuade someone to do something that he or she doesn’t want to do
Example: I roped in three of my neighbors to help me weed the garden.
Explanation: I persuaded three of my neighbors to help me weed the garden.

to be run down

Definition: to be in poor condition or poor health
Example: I have felt really run down lately.
Explanation: I have felt very tired and somewhat ill lately.

to run into someone

Definition: to meet someone by chance
Example: I ran into John today.
Explanation: I saw and spoke to John today by chance. We did not plan our meeting.

to run out

Definition: to deplete the supply of something
Example: Our gas tank is almost empty. I hope we don’t run out of gas.
Explanation: I hope we don’t use all the remaining gas we have left in our gas tank
Note: If we run out of gas, our car will be stranded somewhere because there is no more gas to run the car.

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S

to shake somebody up

Definition: to disturb or bother greatly
Example: The accident really shook me up.
Explanation: The accident really disturbed me. I keep thinking about it and about the possible consequences of it.

to shape up (Often used with to ship out)

Definition: to improve
Example: I don’t like your behavior. You better shape up. –OR– You better shape up or ship out!
Explanation: I don’t like your behavior. You need to improve your behavior. If you don’t improve, then you must leave.

to ship out (Often used with to shape up)

Definition: to leave
Example: I don’t like your behavior. You better shape up or ship out!
Explanation: I don’t like your behavior. You need to improve your behavior. If you don’t improve, then you must leave.

to slip up

Definition: to make a mistake
Example: We slipped up and wrote the wrong address on the form.
Explanation: We made a mistake and wrote the wrong address on the form.

to soup up

Definition: to modify something (especially a car or other vehicle) to make it more powerful
Example: Most of the young men in this neighborhood have souped up their cars.
Explanation: Most of the young men in this neighborhood have modified their cars to go faster and sound louder. Some have extra large wheels and other modifications, too.

to step back

Definition: to pause in an activity
(usually to consider what has been done and what should be done next)
Example: We need to step back and look at where we are.
Explanation: We need to stop our work in order to consider what we have accomplished. Then we can decide what we should do next.

to stir up

Definition: to incite
Example: He stirred up the crowd by shouting protest slogans.
Explanation: He caused the crowd to become excited and active by shouting protest slogans.

to straighten up

Definition: to improve one’s behavior
Example: He has been staying out late every night and arriving to work late every morning. He should straighten up or he will lose his job.
Explanation: He should not go out every night and he should not arrive late to work every day. He should stop that behavior and start to be more responsible.

to straighten out

Definition: to organize or resolve, to eliminate confusion
Example: Your records are a mess. You need to straighten them out before the auditors come.
Explanation: Your records are disorganized and confusing. You need to organize them and make them neat before the auditors come.

to string someone along

Definition: to deceive someone, to make someone wait in uncertainty
Example: I don’t know if we will close the deal or not. The company just keeps stringing me along.
Explanation: I don’t know if we will close the deal or not. The company keeps making me wait for an answer. They only give me a little bit of information at a time.

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T

to take on

Definition: to undertake or accept
Example: He took on many new responsibilities with his new job.
Explanation: He accepted many new responsibilities with his new job.

to talk over

Definition: to discuss
Example: Let’s talk over the new procedures.
Explanation: Let’s discuss the new procedures.

to think over

Definition: to carefully consider, to contemplate
Example: I’ll have to think over that job offer. It requires moving overseas.
Explanation: I will have to carefully consider that job offer before I decide to accept it or not accept it. I do not want to decide quickly because it would be very disruptive to me and my family.

to throw up

Definition: to vomit
Example: He threw up after eating the rotten food.
Explanation: He vomited after eating the rotten food.

to tip off

Definition: to tell or give some confidential information or to give advance information to one person before giving it to everyone
Example: The police were going to confiscate some stolen computers from that warehouse, but someone tipped off the thieves. The thieves moved the computers before the police came.
Explanation: Someone told the thieves about the police’s plan to get the computers. So the thieves were able to move the computers before the police came.

to top it off

Definition: to add one more thing or detail to complete something, such as an action, an idea, or a list
Example: Today has been a horrible day. I forgot my wallet at home and couldn’t pay for fuel, I got a flat tire on my car, I missed my morning meeting, and to top it off I spilled my soup at lunch!
Explanation: Today has been a horrible day. Here is a list of bad things that happened: I forgot my wallet at home and couldn’t pay for fuel, I got a flat tire on my car, I missed my morning meeting, and the last bad thing is that I spilled my soup at lunch!

Note: This is usually used to emphasize that something is very good or very bad.

to touch up

Definition: to improve by making minor changes or additions
Example: I need to touch up my makeup before I go out tonight.
Explanation: I need to apply a little more makeup to my face. I will add to the makeup that I am already wearing.

Note: A woman might say this late in the day when she is already wearing makeup but wants to refresh it.

to turn down

Definition 1: to reject or refuse something
Example: He turned down my offer.
Explanation: He refused my offer.

Definition 2: to reduce the volume or intensity of something (such as an appliance)
Example 1: He asked me to turn down the television.
Explanation: He asked me to reduce the volume of the television.
Example 2: Please turn down the heat.
Explanation: Please reduce the heat that is being emitted from the furnace.

to turn up

Definition 1: to be found unexpectedly
Example: My watch turned up at work today.
Explanation: I unexpectedly found my watch at work today.

Definition 2: to increase the volume or intensity of something (such as an appliance)
Example 1: He asked me to turn up the television.
Explanation: He asked me to increase the volume of the television.
Example 2: Please turn up the heat.
Explanation: Please increase the heat that is being emitted from the furnace.

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W

to water down

Definition: to dilute or weaken something
Example: The ice in my glass melted and now my drink is watered down.
Explanation: The melted ice has diluted my drink.

to work out

Definition 1: to be successful
Example: Don’t worry. It will all work out in the end.
Explanation: Don’t worry. The final result will be successful.

Definition 2: to exercise
Example: I need to work out every day to keep my body in good condition.
Explanation: I need to exercise every day to keep my body in good condition.

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