Phrasal verbs are groups of words used as a verb. These groups must contain either a verb or an adverb or a preposition (sometimes both). They form a complete semantic unit because the words that make up a phrasal verb together describe an action.

Consider the following sentences: 

  • ran into my first-grade teacher.

Here the verb “run” does not make sense on its own; it requires the preposition “into” to function in its intended meaning. To “run into” someone means that you meet them by chance or unexpectedly. 

  • We made plans to hang out with her at the beach this weekend.

Samething here, with the verb “hang” which does not make sense on its own;but with the particle “out” it completes its intended meaning. To “hang out” with someone means that you spend time together. 

Notice that phrasal verbs are used in a sentence just like normal verbs. They simply require the combination to make meaning, as each word has a separate (and very different) meaning if used alone. 

Types of Phrasal Verbs

1. Prepositional Verbs (verb + preposition)

If the verb is combined with a preposition, we call this a prepositional verb. Below, each phrasal verb combination is in bold.

  • My cousin is looking after the kids on Saturday. 
  • Will you stand by me even if I make a bad decision? 
  • Andrea ran into her old friend at the movie theatre. 
  • Your son really takes after his father!
  • Because of his age, Andrew passes for a high school student.
  • Andy refused to go to school after he was picked on by a bully. 

2. Particle Verbs (verb + particle)

If the verb is combined with a particle that does not function as a preposition (since it has no complement), we call this a prepositional verb. Below, each phrasal verb combination is in bold.

  • Do you want to hang out on Sunday afternoon?
  • On Fridays, we are allowed to dress down at work and wear jeans. 
  • Before you invest in a house, you really should think it over.
  • Did Angela hand in her homework? 
  • After much persuasion, she decided to give in. 
  • Did you bring up how delicious her cookies were?

3. Particle-Prepositional verbs (verb + particle + preposition)

If the verb is combined with both a particle and a preposition, we call this a partical-prepositional verb. Below, each phrasal verb combination is in bold.

  • We are looking forward to going camping this weekend.
  • Before the hurricane, we loaded up on bottled water.
  • Why does she put up with him?
  • My partner has been sitting in for me at the meetings.

List of Phrasal Verbs and Their Meanings (with Examples)

Phrasal verbs can be confusing to people learning English precisely because the combination of words changes the meaning of the verb completely, often in ways that mean something entirely unexpected.

Below we list some common phrasal verbs with their meanings, along with an example of each, to help you understand their usage.

Phrasal VerbsExplanationsExamples
abide byrespect or obey a rule, decision, or lawIf you want to join this club, you will have to abide by the rules.
account forexplain, give a reasonThe thief was unable to account for his whereabouts at the time of the bank robbery. 
add upmake sense, seem reasonableThe lawyer argued that the facts just didn’t add up. 
advise againstrecommend not doing somethingHe advised me against parking too close to the other car.
agree with have the same opinion as someone elseJuan didn’t agree that it was time to find another job.
allow for take into considerationMany people take extra time when traveling to allow for unexpected events.
appeal tobe attractive or interestingThe idea of skydiving just doesn’t appeal to me.
apply for make a formal request for somethingAshley is applying for university this summer.
back awaymove backwards, in fear or dislikeWhen they saw the snake, they backed away slowly.
back down withdraw, concede defeatThe governor backed down on his threat to close restaurants.
back down withdraw, concede defeatThe governor backed down on his threat to close restaurants.
back up make a copy ofAlways back up your work when you are writing!
back up make a copy ofAlways back up your work when you are writing!
bank onbase your hopes on something / someoneArturo was banking on getting an extra day off this weekend. 
black outfaint, lose consciousnessShe was feeling ill and then she suddenly blacked out in the kitchen.
black offseparate using a barrierThey blocked off the construction site for safety reasons.
blow up explode, or to get angryHe blew up when he saw all the damage to his car.
boil down tobe summarized asThe final decision boils down to who has more money.
break away separate from a crowdWe watched as one of the whales broke away and swam the other direction
break down go out of order, cease to function; lose control of one’s emotionsShe broke down when she heard the news.
break into enter by forceI can’t believe someone broke into your apartment last night!
break outstart suddenlyA protest broke out after the election results arrived
break out ofescape from a place by forceThe criminals were able to break out of policy custody. 
break up come to an end of a marriage, relationshipDanielle and her boyfriend broke up after 5 years together. 
bring upraise a childWere you brought up in the United States or another country?
brush up on improve, refresh one’s knowledge of somethingI will brush up on my Spanish skills before traveling to the Dominican Republic.
bump intomeet by chance or unexpectedlyI bumped into our old neighbors at the grocery store.
burn out become exhausted from over-workingThis semester has been so much work. Everyone is feeling burnt out!
call backreturn a phone callPlease have the doctor call me back at his earliest convenience.
call offcancelThe race was called off at the last minute because of the weather.
calm downbecome more relaxed, less angry or upsetShe was able to calm down after she learned everyone was alright.
carry on continueMelanie carried on working despite the fact that the electricity went out. 
carry out do something as specifiedThe soldiers carried out their orders.
check inregister arrival at a hotel or airportWere you able to check in at the hotel when you arrived?
check outinvestigateI’ll need to check out that information for myself.
clam upunable to speakWhen the famous actor asked her name, she clammed up./td>
clamp down onact strictly to prevent somethingAfter the protests, the governments tarted clamping down on large gatherings. 
come acrossfind by chance; appear, seem, make an impressionWhen I was moving, I came across an old diary. 
come forwardpresent oneselfo Will the person responsible for the damage please come forward? 
count onrely or depend on for helpo You can always count on friends in times of need.
cut down on reduce in number or sizeo My mother decided to cut down the amount of sugar in her diet.
cut outstop doing somethingThat sound is annoying. Please cut it out!
deal with handle, take care of problem, situationSometimes it’s important to take a break to deal with stress at work. 
die downcalm down, become less strongAfter the storm died down, it was clear there was a lot of damage
do without manage withoutIf there is not enough money for a vacation this summer, we will have to do without. 
drag onlast longer than expectedo That lecture was interesting, but it sure did drag on! 
draw upwrite (contract, agreement, documentThe lawyers drew up a contract to finalize the sale of the property.
dress upwear elegant clothesNormally we don’t dress up unless we are going to a fancy dinner party. 
drop invisit, usually on the way somewhereMy brother was in town, so he decided to drop in for the weekend. 
drop off deliver someone or somethingI’ll swing by and drop off the package later this afternoon. 
drop outleave school without finishingAnthony dropped out of college because he lost interest. 
ease offreduce, become less severe or slow downThe weekday traffic eases off after 9am. 
end upfinally reach a state, place or actionShe ended up studying education instead of biology. 
fall through fail; doesn’t happenOur plans for this evening fell through so we will reschedule. 
figure outunderstand, find the answerThey are trying to figure out how they can travel to the mountains and the beach this summer. 
fill outcomplete a form/an applicationAfter you fill out the application, we will let you know if you are suitable for the position. 
find out discover or obtain informationShe is going to find out what you did and be very angry.
focus on concentrate on somethingI’m going to take a break and focus on this other task instead.
get along (with) be on good terms; work well withMartha seems to get along with everyone in her class. 
get at implyI told him it’s not my fault. What is he trying to get at? 
get away escapeThey are planning to drive north and get away for the weekend.
get bymanage to cope or to surviveIt’s hard to get by unless your job pays well enough. 
get inenterWhat time will you get in this evening?
get offleave or exit a bus, train, planeYou should get off the bus at the last stop. 
get on board bus, train, or planeI just got on the train to New York City. 
get on with (something) continue to do; make progressThey need to cut their losses and get on with their lives. 
get on (well) with (somebody) have a good relationship withMy boyfriend seems to get on well with my parents. 
get outleaveShe wanted to get out of the city and explore nature.
get out of avoid doing somethingHe is trying to get out of doing his weekly chores again!
get overrecover from illness, disappointmentMany people who were sick with the virus were able to get over it in a few weeks.
get rid of eliminateShe had to get rid of her old car after it broke down for the tenth time. 
get together meet each otherLet’s plan to get together and talk more this afternoon. 
get uprise, leave bedI don’t like to get up too early in the morning.
give incease opposition, yieldThe policy will never give in to the kidnapper’s demands. 
give upstop doing somethingHe gave up his dreams to become a world champion after the injury. 
go throughexperienceElizabeth went through a lot after her father died.
grow up spend one’s childhood; develop; become an adultDid you grow up in Paris or in the countryside?
hand insubmit report, homeworkAnthony handed in his report two days late. 
hand outdistributeI asked her to hand out masks to all the residents. 
hang out spend time in a particular place or with a group of friendsAre we all going to hang out this weekend or not?
hang up end phone callI’ll send you the meeting agenda as soon as I hang up. 
hold onwait, grip tightlyThey asked us to hold on until the manger returned.
hurry upbe quick, act speedilyIf she hurries up we will have time to get coffee before the meeting. 
iron outresolve by discussion, eliminate differencesThey were able to iron out the final details of the business deal. 
join inparticipateThey wouldn’t allow Andrew to join in their football match. 
join upengage in, become a member of; meet and unite withCan we join up at the beach later?
keep oncontinue doing somethingHe keeps on playing the same song over and over. 
keep up withstay at the same level as someone or somethingDo you keep up with events in China?
kick offbegin, startThe planned a large kick-off event for the summer. 
leave outomit, not mentionHe left out the fact that I did all the work. 
let downdisappointI’m sorry to let you down but I was unable to buy the cake you requested.
look aftertake care ofWill you look after my pets while I’m away this weekend?
look down onconsider as inferiorMartin always looks down on people who have less education than he does.
look onbe a spectator at an eventYou are welcome to look on until you are ready to play football with us.
look fortry to find somethingThey went to the city to look for some new clothes. 
look forward toawait or anticipate with pleasureI’m looking forward to our vacation to Turkey this summer.
look up toadmireShe really looked up to her grandfather. 
make fun of laugh at/ make jokes aboutAre you making fun of me because I stumbled?
make upinvent excuse, storyDevin made up an excuse to not attend the party.
mix upmistake one thing or person for anotherThose two actors looks very similar, so I keep mixing them up.
move inarrive in a new home or officeThe Andersons just moved into the empty house next door.
move outleave your home/office for another oneShe will be moving out of her apartment at the end of the semester.
nod offfall asleepI always nod off after the evening news comes on.
own upadmit or confess somethingShe owned up to knowing the secret all along. 
pass awaydieHis aunt passed away peacefully in her sleep last night.
pass outfaintShe turned white and looked like she was ready to pass out. 
pay backreimburseMy brother still hasn’t paid me back the $20 I gave him last week.
put offpostpone, arrange a later dateI have been putting off this dentist appointment for a long time. 
put outextinguishThe fire was put out immediate when the fire department arrived. 
put upaccommodate, give somebody a bedThey said they can put me up for the weekend when I am in town. 
pick upcollect somebodyShe’s going to swing by and pick me up at 8am. 
point outindicate/direct attention to somethingShe pointed out that the house down the street was for sale.
rely oncount on, depend on, trustElizabeth is a friend you can always rely on when you need help.
rule outeliminateThey ruled out all of suspects in the crime except one.
run awayescape from a place or suddenly leaveThe dog ran away from home and now everyone is searching for him. 
run intomeet by accident or unexpectedlyI ran into an old friend the other day.
run out of have no more of somethingOur neighbor came by because she had run out of sugar. 
set offstart a journeyThey set off on a new adventure.
set upstart a businessThe couple set up their own restaurant down the street. 
shop aroundcompare pricesBefore you buy your plane, ticket be sure to shop around for the best price. 
show offbrag or want to be admiredHe drove around town to show off his new car. 
show upappear/arriveAnton didn’t show up for work this morning.
shut up (impolite) stop talkingI wish they would shut up, as they are ruining the movie for me. 
sit downtake a seatPlease ask her to sit down and wait for her turn. 
stand uprise from a sitting positionEveryone stood up when the King entered the hall. 
stick up fordefendHis brother always sticks up for him when there are fights on the playground.
take afterresemble, in appearance or characterTheir new baby really takes after his mother!
take care oflook afterI asked her to take care of my plants when I go on vacation. 
take offleave the groundNow that everyone was aboard, the plane is ready to take off.
take onhire or engage staffThe restaurant will take on twenty new employees. 
take outremove, extractI asked him politely to take out the trash.
tell offreprimand or criticize severelyShe told off the man for stepping in front of her in the bank line.
think overto considerThe prime minister will think over the offer before she makes a final decision.
try onwear something to see if it fitsTom will need to try on the shirt to make sure it is the right size. 
turn downrefuseI offered to help clean up the mess, but he turned me down.
use upfinish a product to the endMy husband used up all the tea, so we need to stop by the store. 
watch outbe carefulPlease watch out when driving home in the rain.
wear outbecome unusable or become very tiredEveryone was worn out after a long day hiking the mountain.
work outdo physical exercise; find a solution or calculate somethingAaron works out five times a week.
wipe offTo cleanThe teacher wiped off the chalkboard after the lesson was over.
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