English Phrasal Verbs

English Phrasal VerbsA most complex English grammar phenomenon in easy explanations. Let’s make verb tenses handy.

A phrasal (verb) is a verb + particle (adverb/preposition) combination. Sometimes its meaning may be figured out literally.

There’s no getting away from reality.

But most phrasals are non-motivated whose meaning differs from constituent meanings and makes separate concepts.

Please hold on for a sec!


Phrasals are most common in neutral/informal English, especially spoken American. There’s no today’s English without thousands of phrasals making speech lively. They serve as colloquial equivalents of formal Latin verbs.

postpone = put off

exit = get out

Every student of English needs understanding of at least basic phrasals and common nouns, compound adjectives made from them. The more productive a verb, the more phrasals it forms – be, bring, come, get, go, keep, look, put, run, take, turn… Phrasal meaning can often be guessed from corresponding particle meaning. One of top particles is up meaning completed actions. Some phrasals are used only with certain subjects or in certain contexts.

I’m so thrilled by take-offs.


Intransitive Phrasals

They have no objects.

Come on! Hurry up!

Separable Transitive Phrasals

Their objects go before/after particles.

Have you looked through that book? = Have you looked that book through? = Have you looked it through?

Inseparable Transitive Phrasals

Their objects go only after particles.

You stay away from me!

Some verb+particle combinations have several meanings being transitive/intransitive.

Uncle is getting over.

When will we get over the crisis?


Some phrasals have 3 words – verb+adverb+preposition. In 3-word phrasals objects go only after prepositions.

So let’s get down to work.

Prepositional Verbs

Many verbs are followed by prepositions but aren’t phrasal. These verb+preposition combinations have only motivated literal meaning. Prepositional/phrasal verb distinction is unimportant. It’s only practical to understand verb combination meaning.

Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Top Phrasals

be after sth want, chase be on sth be shown on air/screen
be against sth oppose be out of sth lack
be carried away very excited be taken aback get shocked
be cut out for sb be suited be taken in get cheated
be for sth support be over finish
be in for sth expect (usu bad) be up be awake out of bed, stay awake at night, be wrong/unusual
be off sth not want/like any more, be absent    
break down stop working, lose composure, fail break out begin suddenly (usu bad), escape
break in/into sth enter by force, interrupt break up pause for holidays, separate
bring sth about cause bring sth over (to sb) persuade
bring sth forward suggest bring sb round revitalize, persuade
bring sth on cause (usu bad) bring sb to sth revitalize
bring sth out publish, sell bring sth up raise, mention
call sb back reply by phone call sth off cancel
call for sth need, demand call out shout
carry sth off succeed carry sth out fulfil, conduct
carry sth on continue    
come across sth meet by chance come out go on strike, begin blossoming, be published/revealed
come along hurry up, appear come over visit
come by sth obtain come round visit casually, regain consciousness, change one’s opinion
come down with sth become ill come up be mentioned, occur
come into sth inherit come up against sth encounter
come on hurry up come up with sth find, think of
come off succeed, leave    
cut sth down make fall by cutting, reduce cut sth off disconnect, isolate
cut down/back on sth reduce consuming cut sth out omit
cut into sth interrupt    
do away with sth abolish, murder do with sth want
do sth up fasten, wrap, repair, dress up do without sth live in lack
draw (sb) in slow down, attract    
face up to endure  
fall apart break into pieces, fail fall for sb be deceived, fall in love
fall back on sb/sth turn for help fall in with sb agree
fall behind (sb) not keep up, be late fall out (with sb) quarrel
get across sb communicate get off (with sth) avoid punishment, start traveling
get along (with sb) befriend get on advance, approach, befriend
get at (sth) reach, imply get on with sb/sth befriend/continue
get away escape get over (sth) recover, overcome
get away from sth avoid get round spread
get away with sth escape capture/punishment get round to sth pay time
get by/through manage to survive get sth/sb through finish, use up, reach by phone
get down to sth start doing seriously get to sb affect
give away sth/sb reveal, waste give (sth) out finish, distribute
give in (sth) surrender, hand in give sth up abandon, surrender, stop
give sth off emit    
go ahead continue go off explode, ring, be switched off, spoil
go along progress go on happen, progress, be turned on
go along with sth agree, advance go out stop burning
go back date back go over sth analyze, repeat
go back on sth break a promise/agreement go round suffice, visit, circulate
go by pass, miss go through sth analyze, spend up, experience
go down be reduced, set go through with sth carry out
go down with sth become ill go up rise
go in for sth participate go without sth do without
go into sth analyze go off explode, ring, be switched off, spoil
hold (sth) back control, delay, conceal, be reluctant hold out persist, last
hold sth in control hold (sth) up delay, force, last
hold on wait    
keep away from sth beware keep (sth) on manage to continue
keep sth back conceal keep out of sth avoid (usu bad)
keep sb behind make stay keep sth/sb up support, keep out of bed, keep good
keep (oneself) from sth prevent, avoid keep up with sb/sth proceed equally, stay informed
keep sb/sth off make beware, avoid    
let sth/sb down lengthen clothes, disappoint let sth out make wider, reveal by chance
let sth off forgive, make explode    
look after sb care look out for sb/sth seek
look down on sb/sth disapprove look sth over analyze, revise
look for sth/sb search look sth round examine
look forward to sth expect look sth through glance, study
look into sth analyze look sth/sb up scan, visit
look on/upon sth watch, consider look up to sb respect
make for sth/sb head make sth up to sb compensate
make off escape make (sth) up invent, put cosmetics on, re-befriend, compensate, form as a whole
make sth out figure out, understand, write out make up for sb repay
pass away die pass sth on let inherit (usu clothes)
pass off as sb/sth pretend pass out faint
pay sb back repay, get revenge pay for sth be punished
pull sth down demolish pull over/up slow and stop
pull in (of transport) arrive pull through survive
pull out (of transport) depart    
put sth aside/by save put sth on dress, increase weight, switch on, pretend, arrange
put sb away imprison/hospitalize put sth/sb out extinguish, cause inconvenience
put sth back delay put sb through connect by phone, hurt
put sth down note, pay a deposit put sth/sb up sale, (of prices) rise, host
put down to sth attribute put up with sth/sb tolerate
put sth/sb off postpone, discourage  
run across sb/sth meet/find by chance run out (of sth) lack
run away/off escape run (sb) over wound with a vehicle, overflow
run away with sth escape with stealing run sth through repeat
run (sb/sth) down wound with a vehicle, underrate, (of batteries) discharge run sth up let grow
run into sb/sth meet by chance, car-crash, experience run up against sth face
see about sth learn/prepare see sb through know well, support
see sb off accompany, make sure see to sb care
see sth out last    
set sth aside/by save specially set out start traveling, intend
set in (of weather) remain set sth up found
set off start traveling    
stand by sb support stand sb up miss meeting
stand for sth deabbreviate stand up for sb/sth support
stand in for sb replace stand up to sth/sb resist
stand out show off  
take after sb resemble a relative take sb on hire
take sth away remove, seize take sth out remove/extract
take sth back regret saying take sb out bring public
take sth down dismantle take sth over seize
take sth in make (clothes) narrower take to sb like
take (sth) off undress, fly up, start improving take sth up indulge, fill
take time off rest take up on sb accept offer
turn sb away not let in turn out (sth) produce, result, force out, empty
turn sth down refuse, volume down turn over sth change (page, channel)
turn sb in give to police turn sth over to sb deliver
turn (sth/sb) into sth change turn to sb address
turn sth off switch off turn (sth) up appear, increase
turn sth on switch on  
wear sb down weaken wear sth out exhaust
wear off (of feelings) fade way    
work sth on affect work sth up develop
work (sth) out solve, progress