50 Phrasal Verbs You Need

Phrasal Verbs are the area of the English language that students love to hate. Knowing these phrases is crucial to mastering English yet they are difficult to use.

In this article, we look at some popular phrasal verbs and their definitions.

Phrasal VerbMeaningExample
abide byTo follow a decision, a law or a ruleIf you want to stay here, you simply have to abide by the rules.
account forTo explain why you took a particular decisionI hope you can account for the reason you sold the item.
act uponTo take actionShe acted upon her instincts and challenged the man.
advise againstTo recommend not doing somethingadvise against pleading guilty in this case.
agree withTo have the same opinion as someone else.agree with you. You shouldn’t go there tomorrow.
allow forTo take into considerationWe need to allow for unexpected charges along the way.
appeal toTo plead or make a request.

To be attractive or interesting
He appealed to the court to change its decision.

I appealed to his better nature and he helped me.
apply forTo make a formal request for something (job, permit, loan etc.)He applied for a scholarship for next semester.
back awayTo move backwards, in fear or dislikeWhen he saw the bear, he backed away in fright.
back downTo withdraw or admit defeatThe prosecution backed down when they realised that their witness was unlikely to turn up.
back upTo give support or show encouragement.

To make a copy of something (file, program, etc.)
I’m going to be very strict with him. I hope you’ll back me up on this?

You should back up all your computer files in a secure location.
bank onTo base your hopes on something / someoneI’m banking on the witness to really help us out.
black outTo faint, lose consciousnessJenna fell in the parking lot and blacked out.
block offTo separate using a barrier.The police blocked off the street after the explosion.
blow upTo explodeTo get angryTommy blew up the red balloon.Don’t blow up at me. It’s not my fault.
boil down toTo be summarized asIt all boils down to who has more power.
boot upTo start a computer by loading an operating system or programYou need to boot up your computer before you begin to work.
break awayTo separate from a crowdOne of the wolves broke away from his pack.
break downTo go out of order, cease to functionTo lose control of one’s emotionsThe washing machine broke down so we had to call in the repair technician.John broke down when he heard the news.
break intoTo enter by forceSomebody broke into my car last night and took the radio.
break outTo start suddenlyRioting broke out after the government raised taxes again.
break out ofTo escape from a place by forceSeveral prisoners broke out of the city prison last night.
break upTo come to an end (marriage, relationship)She broke up with Joe after dating him for five years.
bring upTo raise (a child)Sara is bringing up her children by herself.
brush up onTo improve, refresh one’s knowledge of somethingI must brush up on my Legal French before going to Paris next month.
bump intoTo meet by chance or unexpectedlybumped into Adam at the bank. He says “hello”.
burn outstop (something) workingbecome exhausted from over-workingThe light bulb burnt out. Please change it.She needs to work fewer hours. Otherwise she will burn out.
call backTo return a phone callCould please call back in ten minutes?
call offTo cancelThe game was called off because of bad weather.
calm downTo become more relaxed, less angry or upsetIt took Kylie several hours to calm down after she saw the accident.
carry onTo continueThe soldiers carried on walking in order to get to their post before dark.
carry outTo do something as specified (a plan, an order, a threat)To perform or conduct (test, experiment)His orders were carried out to the letter.That company does not carry out tests on animals.
check inTo register at a hotel or airportThey said I must check in at least three hours before my flight.
check outTo pay one’s bill and leave (a hotel)To investigateDonna checked out of the hotel this morning.I don’t know if this price is correct. I’ll check it out online.
clam upTo refuse to speakWhen the police started asking questions, the suspect clammed up.
clamp down onTo act strictly to prevent somethingThe local authorities have decided to clamp down on illegal parking in handicapped parking places.
come acrossTo find by chanceTo appear, seem, make an impressionI was cleaning up and came across some old photos of you.The politician came across as a complete fool during the TV interview.
come forwardTo present oneselfHas the owner of the winning lotto ticket come forward?
count onTo rely or depend on (for help)You can count on me to keep your secret.
cut down onTo reduce in number or sizeI’ve decided to cut down on the amount of sweets I eat.
cut outTo remove using scissorsTo stop doing somethingShe cut out a coupon from the newspaper.You need to cut out all red meat from your diet.
deal withTo handle, take care of (problem, situation)Catherine is not good at dealing with stress.
die downTo calm down, become less strongAfter the storm died down, we went outside to see the damage it had caused.
do withoutTo manage withoutShe didn’t get a salary this month, so she’ll have to do without extra treats.
drag onTo last longer than expectedThe suspect’s trial dragged on longer than we had expected!
draw upTo write (contract, agreement, document)They drew up a contract and had me sign it.
dress upwear elegant clothesTheir wedding gave us a chance to dress up and get out of the house.
drop inTo visit, usually on the way somewhereWhy don’t you drop in to see us on your way home?
drop offTo deliver someone or somethingTo fall asleepI’ll drop off the papers later today.I often drop off in front of the TV.
drop outTo leave school without finishingZack dropped out of college and joined the army.
ease offTo reduce, become less severe or slow down (pain, traffic, work)Traffic usually eases off about 7pm
end inTo finish in a certain way; result inHer marriage ended in divorce.
end upTo finally reach a state, place or actionIf you don’t improve your work habits, you’ll end up being fired.
fall throughTo fail; doesn’t happenHis plans to trek through South America fell through when he got sick.
figure outTo understand, find the answerHe’s trying to figure out how to earn enough money to go on the trip to Spain.
fill outTo complete (a form/an application)Please fill out the enclosed form and return it as soon as possible.
find outTo discover or obtain informationI’m going to to find out who’s responsible for the power cut.
focus onTo concentrate on somethingTom had difficultty focusing on work the day before his holiday started.
get along (with)To be on good terms; work well withIt’s important to get along with your team supervisor.
get atTo implyWhat are you getting at? Do you think I’m to blame?
get awayTo escapeI think we should get away for the weekend.
get byTo manage to cope or to surviveStudents without jobs have a hard time getting by.
get inTo enterWhen did you get in last night?
get into (+noun)To enterHow did you get into your car without the keys?
get offTo leave (bus, train, plane)To removeYou should get off the train in Kings Heath.I can’t get the ink stain off my shirt.
get onTo board (bus, train, plane)I’m trying to get on the flight to Brussels.
get on with (something)To continue to do; make progressAfter they split up, she had a hard time getting on with her life.
get on (well) with (somebody)To have a good relationship withHe doesnt get on very well with the other members of the committee.
get outTo leaveHe had a hard time getting out of Newark because of the snow?
get out ofTo avoid doing somethingEdna’s trying to get out of working the night shift.
get overTo recover from (illness, disappointment)Has she gotten over the flu?
get overTo recover from (illness, disappointment)Mary had the chickenpox last week but she got over it.
get rid ofTo eliminatePlease get rid of that old t-shirt. It’s so ragged.
get togetherTo meet each otherLet’s get together for your birthday on Saturday.
get upTo rise, leave bedWill you please get up? You’ve got a class in 20 minutes.
give inTo cease opposition; yieldTo To hand in; submitWe will never give in to the terrorists’ demands.I’ll give in my paper tomorrow.
give upTo stop doing somethingMorris gave up drinking 10 years ago.
go throughTo experienceAndy went through a lot of pain after his mother died.
grow upTo spend one’s childhood; develop; become an adultHe’s like Peter Pan. He never really grew up at all.
hand inTo submit (report, homework)Please hand in your papers before Friday.
hand outTo distributeSusan volunteered at the shelter where she handed out warm clothes.
hang outTo spend time in a particular place or with a group of friendsWhich pub does the team hang out at after the game?
hang upTo end a phone conversationIf you hang up now, I’ll never speak to you again.
hold onTo waitTo grip tightlyPlease hold on and a representative will answer your call.She was so scared on the rollercoaster ride that she held on for dear life.
hurry upTo be quick, act speedilyHurry up and finish your lunch or we’ll miss the train.
iron outTo resolve by discussion, eliminate differencesThe two countries met at the conference to iron out their differences.
join inTo participateYes David, you can join in the discussion any time you like.
join upTo engage in, become a member ofTo meet and unite withThere was a war on, so some kids were only sixteen when they joined up.Let’s separate now and join up later at the restaurant.
keep onTo continue doing somethingIf you keep on making that noise I will get annoyed.
keep up withTo stay at the same level as someone or somethingI read the paper every day to keep up with the news.
kick offTo begin, startThe rugby match kicked off at 3 o’clock.
leave outTo omit, not mentionPlease check your form again and make sure nothing is left out.
let downTo disappointI feel so let down because they promised me a puppy but all I got was a doll.
look afterTo take care ofAndy can you look after your sister until I get back?
look down onTo consider as inferiorShe’s such a snob. She always looks down on anyone who is poor.
look onTo be a spectator at an eventIf you don’t want to take part in the game you can look on for now.
look forTo try to find somethingHarry went to the shop to look for a new computer.
look forward toTo await or anticipate with pleasureI’m looking forward to my birthday. It’s in two days time.
look up toTo admireI always looked up to my father. He was a great man.
make fun ofTo laugh at/ make jokes aboutIt’s not nice to make fun of people in wheelchairs.
make upTo invent (excuse, story)That’s a good excuse. Did you make up it up yourself?
mix upTo mistake one thing or person for anotherShe had so many cats that she kept mixing up their names.
move inTo arrive in a new home or officeDid you hear? Our new neighbors are moving in this afternoon.
move outTo leave your home/office for another one.When are you moving out? We need your office for the new guy.
nod offTo fall asleepYou were so tired after the game that you nodded off on the couch.
own upTo admit or confess somethingCome on. Own up. We know you did it!
pass awayTo dieYour grandfather passed away peacefully in his sleep last night.
pass outTo faintHe didn’t drink enough water so he passed out at the end of the race.
pay backTo reimburseI’ll pay you back as soon as I get the loan.
put offTo postpone, arrange a later dateDon’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today.
put onTo turn on, switch onIt’s very dark in here. Please put on the light on.
put outTo extinguishThe fire fighters were able to put out fire in ten minutes.
put upTo accommodate, give somebody a bedI can put you up until the weekend but then I’m going away.
pick upTo collect somebodyI’ll pick you up at around 7:00 to take you to the airport.
point outTo indicate/direct attention to somethingAs I already pointed out, there was a mistake in your calculation.
rely onTo count on, depend on, trustYou can rely on me. I always arrive on time.
rule outTo eliminateSince he had a sound alibi, the police ruled him out as a suspect.
run awayTo escape from a place or suddenly leaveHe ran away from home and joined the circus.
run intoTo meet by accident or unexpectedly (also: bump into)I’m so glad I ran into you. I need to ask you something.
run out ofTo have no more of something.We’ve run out of milk. I’ll just pop next door to borrow some.
set offTo start a journey;Let’s set off early to miss the rush hour traffic.
set upTo start a businessThey set up their own company when they were still in high school.
shop aroundTo compare pricesDon’t buy that. Let’s shop around and see if we can find something cheaper.
show offTo brag or want to be admiredHe’s such a show off. He has to tell everybody about his new computer.
show upTo appear/arriveI don’t think she’ll show up tonight. Her daughter is sick.
shut up (impolite)To be silent, stop talkingShut up, you’re spoiling the movie!
sit downTo take a seatI think you should sit down. It’s bad news.
stand upTo rise from a sitting positionThe whole stadium stood up for the national anthem.
stick up forTo defendMy big brother always stuck up for me when I got into a fight.
take afterTo resemble, in appearance or characterAngie really takes after her grandmother.
take care ofTo look afterPlease take care of my cat when I’m away.
take offTo leave the groundThe plane will take off as soon as the fog lifts.
take onTo hire or engage staffI hear they’re taking on extra staff for this event.
take outTo remove; extractPlease take out your mobile phones and turn them off.
tell offTo reprimand/criticize severelyThe coach told her off for not trying hard enough.
think overTo considerTake your time and think it over before you decide.
try onTo wear something to see if it suits or fitsGo ahead, try it on and see if it fits?
turn downTo refuseI asked her out but she turned me down flat.
use upTo finish a product (so that there’s none left)Your parents used up all the coffee!
watch outTo be carefulWatch out! There’s a dog in the road.
wear outTo become unusableTo become very tiredJulie wore out her shoes running the marathons.Julie was worn out after all that running.
work outTo do physical exerciseTo find a solution or calculate somethingYou should work out twice a week at the gym.Can you work this out? I’m no good at math.
wipe offTo clean (board, table).I’ll wash up if you wipe off the table.

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