Phrasal Verbs

There are single-word verbs like look, run, and stay, and there are phrasal verbs containing multiple words. It changes the meaning of the verb when combined with a preposition or adverb. For example, the single-word verb, look, means to use one’s eyes to observe something. However, the phrasal verb, look up, means to search for information.

Since there are thousands of phrasal verbs in English, mastering the most common ones and using them correctly is essential. Moreover, native English speakers use phrasal verbs in their daily conversations. In this article, you will learn what phrasal verbs are and the common phrasal verbs with meanings and examples.

What are Phrasal Verbs?

A phrasal verb is two or more words that create an idiomatic expression with a separate meaning from the words alone. The combination are either (1) verb + preposition, (2) verb + adverb, or (3) verb + verb + adverb + preposition.

Let’s take the verb, break, for example. On its own, it means to separate into pieces. But when combined with a preposition and adverb, it changes the meaning.

 Phrasal VerbMeaningExamples
break outto start something suddenly– A fight broke out among the partygoers.

– The crowd broke out into cheers when they heard the news.

– The fire broke out in the middle of the night.
break out ofto escape by force out of a place– The prisoners broke out of jail last night.

– A few minutes after I placed my cat in the cage, it broke out of it in a few seconds.

– He can break out of the room through the window.
Table for Phrasal Verbs with the Verb “Break
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Phrasal Verbs Rules

Every language is governed by a set of rules. Phrasal verbs, for example, can’t be formed by placing a preposition or adverb before the main verb. “With deal” does not make sense, but “deal with” does. The structure of phrasal verbs, as well as their related grammar rules, is explained below.

Formation of Phrasal Verbs

The three combinations of phrasal verbs are (1) verb + preposition, (2) verb + adverb, and (3) verb + verb + adverb + preposition. The table below shows some examples of phrasal verbs following three formulas.

Phrasal VerbFormulaMeaningExample
count onverb + prepositionto rely or depend on someone or somethingI can always count on my best friend for help.
move inverb + prepositionto start living in a new place or  homeWe are moving in our new house next week.
watch outverb + adverbwarning to be careful or vigilantWatch out for the speeding cars when you cross the street.
look upverb + adverbto search for information or dataI need to look up the address of the restaurant before I go.
stick up forverb + verb + adverb + prepositionto defend or support someoneMy brother always sticks up for me when I’m in trouble.
look forward toverb + verb + adverb + prepositionto anticipate something with excitement or pleasureThe captain is looking forward to their new voyage.
Phrasal Verbs Formation Table

As you notice from the examples, phrasal verbs adhere to the tenses rule. Remember that only the main verb is affected by the change of tense and the adverb and preposition stay the same. For example, the phrasal verb, count on, becomes will be counting in future progressive tense and had been counting on in the past perfect progressive tense.

Refer to the table below for the different tenses of verbs:

Tense / Aspect of TimeSimpleProgressive / ContinuousPerfectPerfect Progressive / Continuous
Presentis, am, are, or base for of verbis / am /are + (verb + ing)has / have + past participlehas / have been + (verb + ing)
Pastwas, werewas / were + (verb + ing)had + past participlehad been + (verb + ing)
Futurewill + base verbwill be + (verb + ing)will have + past participlewill have been + (verb + ing)
Verb Tenses Table
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Types of Phrasal Verbs: Transitivity

Transitivity is a property of a verb that refers to the ability of the verb to take an object. Phrasal verbs can be either transitive or intransitive.

Point of ComparisonTransitive VerbIntransitive verb
Meaningpayback, lift up, fill up, read out, hold down, pin up, leave out, mix up, pass around, switch offIntransitive phrasal verbs do not require an object to complete their meaning.
Examplespayback, lift up, fill up, read out, hold down, pin-up, leave out, mix up, pass around, switch offlie down, get ahead, work out, calm down, come through, run away, back down, sign in
Sample Sentences– He needs to pay back the money he borrowed.
– Please fill up my glass with wine.
– You need to switch off the lights when you’re not using them.
– Sign in here.
– Don’t run away!
– Please lie down.
Transitivity Phrasal Verbs Table

Types of Phrasal Verbs: Separability

The separability of phrasal verbs refers to whether a direct object can be placed between the main verb and the adverb or preposition. Generally, three-word phrasal verbs are inseparable.

Point of ComparisonSeparable Phrasal VerbInseparable Phrasal verb
MeaningThe direct object can come in between the phrasal verb.The direct object must come after the phrasal verb.
Examplesrinse out, bring over
fill up, wipe off, move over, pass on, clear up, add up, point out, quiet down
pass on, see to, talk over, come by, run out of, look after, call for, put up with, turn into, get away with
Sample SentencesWipe your shoes off before entering the house.
– She cleared his desk up last week.
– She needs to bring the documents over here.
– She needs to look after his health.
– You can talk over the issue with the manager.
– He is putting up with his parents’ decision.
Separability Phrasal Verbs Table
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Examples of Phrasal Verbs

Here are 15 examples of phrasal verbs used in sentences:

  1. Joan blew away her money at the casino.
  2. The intern apologized for the mix-up in the report.
  3. I’m going over my notes before the exam.
  4. Andrei, the mechanic, put the car together in no time.
  5. The new law came about after months of debate.
  6. She needs to find out more information about the investment.
  7. My friend helped me out when I was in need.
  8. The soldier fought back against his captors.
  9. Oliver dressed up as Joker for Halloween. 
  10. Carry on with your explanation about the project.
  11. I asked around, but no one knew the answer.
  12. Please plug in my charger on the socket.
  13. We wrapped up the meeting early.
  14. He showed off his new car to all his friends.
  15. She disagreed with her classmate on the issue.

Phrasal Verbs Exercises with Answers

Match the phrasal verbs in Column A with their meaning in Column B.

Column AColumn B
1. make it up to
2. ask round 
3. set up 
4. go beyond 
5. walk away from  
6. fall apart 
7. narrow down 
8. drop by
9. phase out
10. come across with
1. make it up to
2. ask round 
3. set up 
4. go beyond 
5. walk away from  
6. fall apart 
7. narrow down 
8. drop by
9. phase-out
10. come across with
Phrasal Verbs Exercise Worksheet


  1. make it up to → g. to do something to compensate for a mistake or wrong that was done
  2. ask round → j. to inquire people in order to get information 
  3. set up → a. to arrange or organize something
  4. go beyond → f. to exceed the limits of what is expected
  5. walk away from → c. to leave a situation or relationship without resolving it
  6. fall apart → i. to break down or disintegrate
  7. narrow down → d. to reduce the number of choices or possibilities
  8. drop by → e. to visit someone or a place for a short period of time
  9. phase out → h. to gradually discontinue the use of something
  10. come across with → b. to provide something that is needed or requested
English Grammar Learning Infographic

Phrasal Verbs List

Phrasal Verbs
absorb oneself inend upjoin upnote downset up
account forenter intojoke aroundopen uptag along
add up toeven upjump aroundopt-outtune in
aim atface up tojump attip-offtear up
ask roundfade outkeep out oforder inthrow away
warm-upfall apartkeep to oneselforder outbailout
base onfall back uponkeep togetherpass ontrickle down
bear outfall behindkeep underpass outurge on
believe ingear towardskeep uppass overuse up
blurt outget ahead of oneselfkeep up withpile upused to
call backgive inlash outphase outusher in
camp outgo aboutlay lowquarrel outvacuum up
cash ingo beyondlean intoquarrel withvote in
chalk up tohammer outlie downqueen upvote out
check offhand outlog offqueue upvouch for
come across withhand overlook forward toquiet downwake up
dawn uponhear outmake it countrain downwalk away from
dive indrawbackmake it up torally aroundwalk away with
double downhold againstmuster uprun acrosshideaway
draw backinform onmatch upread oneself inwatch out
drift apartink inmove onrely onzone out
drop byinquire afternail downscale downzoom in
dwell uponimprove uponname afterscreen outzero in
ease upiron outname forsee throughzero out
empty outjoin innarrow downsend out forzoom out
Phrasal Verbs Table
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Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

English grammar, like any language, is a complex subject to study. Understanding and applying grammar rules can be challenging, especially for English language learners. However, your success in learning the language is dependent on your learning plan.

First, know that there are different levels of language proficiency. Knowing your status allows you to align it with your study materials and learning strategy. To keep your motivation, select beginner-friendly materials instead of university textbooks when starting. In doing so, you will feel less intimidated by the topics you should learn.

Second, focus on the basics: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Learn how to use them correctly in sentences and understand their meaning. It will help you build a strong foundation for your English language learning journey. Divide those topics into subtopics and learn each concept and rule one by one.

Third, find a reliable source of learning materials. Online resources such as websites, blogs, and YouTube videos are mostly free. LillyPad’s blog, for example, is a great resource for English language learning materials. Additionally, you can find books and other printed materials in your local library or bookstore.

Fourth, practice speaking the language with native speakers or other English learners. It will help you understand how to use the language correctly in conversations and improve your pronunciation.

Finally, be patient with yourself and don’t give up. Learning a language takes time and effort, so set realistic goals and celebrate your achievements along the way.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand infinitives and modal verbs.

Common Mistakes Made by English Learners

Learning a new language can be difficult, and English is no exception. Even experienced English learners make mistakes when speaking or writing in the language. Here are some of the most common mistakes made by English learners:

Common MistakeWhy it HappensCorrectionExamples
Placing the direct object in between an inseparable phrasal verb.Determining separable from inseparable phrasal verbs can be tricky for learners. They learn with sentence patterns that the direct object comes after the main verb. Hence, they might carry that pattern with inseparable verbs.Placing direct objects that are pronouns after a phrasal verbIncorrect: We need to go the plan over before the meeting.

Correct: We need to go over the plan before the meeting.

Incorrect: Sometimes, I look fond memories back on.

Correct: Sometimes, I look back on fond memories.
Placing a direct objects that are pronouns after a phrasal verbThe general guideline with phrasal verbs is direct object comes after it. However, pronouns are an exemption from this rule.When the direct object of the phrasal verb is a pronoun, ensure to place it between the phrasal verb.Incorrect: Hear out me before making a  decision.

Correct: Hear me out before making a decision.

Incorrect: There are a lot of options, but you have to narrow down it.

Correct: There are a lot of options, but you have to narrow it down.
Phrasal Verbs Common Errors Table
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Phrasal Verbs Learning Strategies and Best Practices

A holistic approach to learning a language makes it easier to understand and remember. The five macro skills, reading, listening, viewing, speaking, and writing, should be developed and used in the learning process for better language acquisition. The table below lists activities you can do when learning linking verbs:

Learning Strategies and Best Practices
ReadingUse flashcards to know basic English sight words and their meaning. Search for a material that contains a translation of common expressions from your native language to English. Select study materials appropriate for your language proficiency.
ListeningListen to an audiobook or a song and write what you hear to improve your retention of English words. Compare and contrast two audio materials like TV ads and a speech. Summarize a podcast, movie, audiobook, and other English audio materials.
ViewingObserve how native speakers speak and try to mimic it. Watch English movies, interviews, and tutorials. Use pictographs to learn and remember new words.
SpeakingJoin a community of English language learners and communicate with them to improve and gain feedback. Integrate the language into your daily life and try to speak using English. Participate in speech organizations (e.g. debate clubs, theatre groups)
WritingWrite a journal of your learning journey in English. Answer practice tests and create your own sentences. Create a reflection essay on the media you watch or listen to.
Phrasal Verbs Learning Strategies Table
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Phrasal Verb Frequently Asked Questions

1. Sandra carried on with her work despite the noise.
2. John put up a sign in front of his house.
3. I will come up with a plan soon.
4. I looked up the definition of the word in the dictionary.
5. The plane took off on time.
6. Can you turn on the light?
7. She picked up her bag and left.
8. We need to get on with our project.
9. They went out for dinner last night.
10. He set up a meeting with his boss.

A sentence has two parts: the noun phrase and the verb phrase. To identify the verb phrase, look for the verb and any words that modify or describe it. These words can be adverbs, prepositions, nouns, pronouns, or adjectives.

Compound verbs are two or more words joined together to form a single verb. Under the umbrella of compound verbs is phrasal verbs that contain a main verb paired with an adverb or preposition. What makes phrasal verbs distinct from other compound verbs is that they mostly have a literal meaning.

A part of language proficiency is being able to use phrasal verbs correctly. Phrasal verbs are a crucial part of English that helps you express yourself more accurately and naturally. They also make your sentences dynamic and improve your proficiency. When you learn phrasal verbs, you can speak like a native speaker since phrasal verbs are part of their daily conversations.

Some examples of phrasal verbs include:
– Look up (to search for information)
– Put off (to delay or postpone)
– Carry on (to continue doing something)
– Take off (to leave quickly)
– Come up with (to think of an idea or solution)
– Get on (to make progress)
– Set up (to arrange or organize)
– Pick up (to take or collect something)
– Go out (to leave the house for a social event)
– Turn on (to activate or switch something on)

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