Top 25 Phrasal Verbs used by English Speakers
Phrasal verbs – what are they?
Quite simply, they are phrases or expressions that contain verbs along with either a preposition or an adverb.
Their meaning, however, may not be quite that obvious when you first read it. Phrasal verbs are used in everyday conversation. Therefore, it is important to learn them, understand them and use them in your daily English too!
So, let’s take a closer look at what exactly a phrasal verb is made up of.
A verb –> A verb is a word or group of words that express an action (such as eat), an event (such as happen) or a state (such as exist).
A Preposition –> a word or group of words, such as in, from, to, out of and on behalf of, used before a noun or pronoun to show place, position, time or method.
An Adverb –> a word that adds more information about a place, time, manner, cause or degree to a verb, an adjective, a phrase or another adverb.
So, now that we understand what a phrasal verb consists of; let’s take a look at the top 25 phrasal verbs used by English speakers.
Below we have given 1 or 2 definitions of each phrasal verb, however, some phrasal verbs have more than 2 meanings. We have used the most common examples.
English Phrasal Verbs with "UP"
1 - Catch up
1 – To reach someone who is moving faster than you. For example, The little girl was running as fast as she could, but she could not catch up with her big sister.
2 – To meet someone that you have not seen for a while for a chat. For example, “I have not seen you in ages! Let’s catch up this weekend if you are free?”
2 - Set up
1 – To set something up means to build something or put something somewhere. For example, “Dave, could you help me to set up the conference room for our meeting this afternoon?”
2 – To set someone up means to trick someone, especially by making them look guilty about something. For example, Megan’s friends told her the party would be very small, but when she got there, there were hundreds of people. She had been set up.
3 - Bring up
1 – To bring something up, means to mention a topic to talk about. For example, many employees have called in sick this month. The boss will bring this up at the next meeting to find out why this has been happening.
2 – To bring somebody up, means to raise and care for a child and teach them how to behave. For example, Jenny is a hard-working Mother. She is bringing up three children by herself.
4 - Give up
1 – To stop trying to do something. For example, “I always try to do my best at work; my Boss never thanks me for my hard work but I will not give up!”
2 – To give something up means to stop doing or having something. For example, Michael wants to give up smoking cigarettes for the New Year because they are very unhealthy.
5 - Show up
1 – To arrive at a place where you have arranged to meet somebody. For example, “The meeting will start at 10 a.m sharp! Please do not show up late!” warned the manager.
2 – To show someone up means to make them feel embarrassed by behaving badly. For example, “I cannot believe that she showed me up like that! “cried Mary, “I wasn’t able to give the answers because she kept shouting the answers when it wasn’t her turn!” “Don’t worry, I will talk to your Teacher about it” replied Mom.
English Phrasal Verbs with "DOWN"
6 - Break down
1 – To break down means to become very emotional and be unable to hide your emotions. For example, “I had such a stressful day at work, that when I got home, I broke down! I couldn’t stop crying! I hope tomorrow will be a better day.”
2 – If something breaks down, then it stops working. For example, Rosie was driving her car home when suddenly, it broke down. She had to call her husband to come and fix it.
7 - Turn down
1 – To turn something down means to politely say ‘no’ to it/them. For example, the company has offered me a better salary but I would need to move to the city. I don’t want to move, so I will turn down the offer.”
2 – To turn down something means to lower the volume on it. For example, “I am trying to do my homework! Could you please turn down the TV!!” shouted Rory.
8 - Fall down
To drop down from a higher level to a lower level.
- “Be careful!” warned Grandma, “The hall is very dark! Please do not fall down the stairs!”
- He slipped and fell down.
- The picture keeps falling down. (from the wall to the ground)
9 - Calm down
To become or make somebody become calm.
- Please do not go in there, she is very angry. Wait until she has calmed down!
- I usually listen to soft music and take a bath to calm down after a busy day.
English Phrasal Verbs with "ON"
11 - Put on
To put something on like clothes, make-up or music.
- Just a minute, I am putting on my Clothes; then I will be ready to leave!
- I want to listen to some music; could you put on a CD, please?
- I need to exercise and eat healthier because I have put on weight!
12 - Hang on
1 – To hold on tightly to something. For example, “Hang on!” shouted Jason to Paula as the roller coaster began to move.
2 – Used to ask someone to wait for a short time. For example, “Hi, can I speak to Mr. Black?” asked Tim. “Hang on please “replied the receptionist, “I’ll check to see if he is available”.
13 - Turn on
1 – To turn on something means to switch it on. For example, the house was cold so Fred turned on the heating.
2 – To turn on somebody means to attack somebody suddenly or expectantly. For example, “I don’t know what happened; one minute she was very nice and then the next thing she turned on me! She was shouting and her face was very red!”
14 - Try on
To try something on means to put on some clothing to see if it fits you or if it looks good on you.
- Try on the shoes to see if they fit.
- You can try on the dress in the fitting room.
- “I think you should try on the blue dress Judy, blue usually looks great on you!”
English Phrasal Verbs with "OFF"
15 - Show off
1 – To try to impress others by talking about your abilities or what possessions you have. For example, “I don’t like him; did you see him yesterday?” asked Rita, “No, what did he do?” asked Betty, “He drove his new car around for 2 hours so that everyone would see him! He is a show off!”
2 – To show something off means to make someone look more attractive by showing their best features. For example, “I would like to dye your hair brown” suggested the hairdresser, “You have beautiful eyes, and brown hair would really show them off!”
16 - Drop off
1 – To fall asleep. For example, I was so tired last night, that I dropped off while I was relaxing on the sofa!
2 – To leave something/someone at a place. For example, I will drop off the kids at the movie theatre around 5:00 pm and I will collect them at about 7:00 pm.
17 - Call off
To call something off means to cancel an event that has been planned.
- The meeting this afternoon has been called off because the Boss is sick.
- We have to call off the sport’s day because the weather is too bad!
18 - Put off
1 – To put something off means to postpone it until a later time. For example, our company has put off our annual barbeque until the weather improves.
2 – To put someone off also means to make them wait for something that they want. For example, Mom tried to put off my sister from coming home until everyone had arrived for her surprise birthday.
English Phrasal Verbs with "IN"
19 - Fill in
1 – To fill in for somebody means to do the work or task that they usually do. For example, Jack filled in for Tom while he was on vacation.
2 – To fill someone in on something means to give them more information about something that you know about. For example, Gina filled in Vicky on everything that happened in the office while she was on sick-leave.
3 – To fill in a form or document means to write in all of the blank spaces provided. For example, “Please fill in this form, then sign your name at the bottom” ordered the policeman.
20 - Give in
If you give in to something, you agree to do something that you do not want to do.
- You must never give in to pressure.
- Rose decided to give in her notice.
- “Please please please can I go to Lisa’s birthday party next weekend! Everyone will be there!” begged Lucy. “Fine, but you must be home by 10:00 o’clock” sighed Mom giving in.
21 - Hand in
1 – If you hand in something such as homework or an assignment, you give it to your teacher or professor. For example, “Please hand in your projects by Friday noon!”
2 – If you hand in your notice, you tell your employer, in speech or in writing, that you no longer wish to work for them. For example, “Good morning Karen, I heard that you handed in your notice last week!”, “Yes” replied Karen, “I found a new job. I will start there in 3 weeks!”
22 - Break in
1 – If someone, usually a thief or criminal breaks in; they force themselves into a building. For example, the criminals stole all of the money and jewelry they could find when they broke into the house.
2 – If you break in something new, you gradually use it or wear it for longer and longer periods of time. For example, I bought new shoes last weekend. I am going to break them in so they feel comfortable when I wear them to my friend’s wedding in the Summer.
English Phrasal Verbs with "OUT"
23 - Hang out
1 – If you hang out with someone, you spend time with them. For example, “Do you want to hang out this weekend?” asked Sharon, “Sure!” replied Diana, “Let’s go to the beach if the weather is nice!”
2 – If you hang out clothes, you put them on a clothes line to dry after they have been washed. For example, “It’s a beautiful sunny morning, please don’t forget to hang out the washing!” called Milla to her husband as she left the house to go to work.
24 - Work out
1 – If you work out, you do physical exercise. For example, Walter likes to go to the gym every morning to work out.
2 – If you work something out, you manage to fix or solve an issue or problem after working hard to find the solution. For example, “What’s the matter with the TV?” asked Nick, “I’m not sure” said Dad scratching his head. “I’m still trying to work it out”.
25 - Find out
1 – If you find something out, you learn something new that you did not know before. This usually happens after you have been trying to find an answer. For example, “I want to travel to Italy next Summer. I want to find out what life is like in Italy!”
2 – If you find someone out, you discover that they have been doing something dishonest. For example, “He had been stealing money from the company for months! He was found out when the boss checked his bank account!”
How many of these English Phrasal Verbs did you know?
These are just some examples of some of the most commonly used phrasal verbs.
There are hundreds and hundreds of them!
Did you find these easy to understand based on the verbs, adverbs or prepositions used; or were they a little confusing?
See if you can use these phrasal verbs in your daily English.
Try to write down a sentence or two using a phrasal verb to help you understand them better and use them in the right context.
Are there any other phrasal verbs that you have come across while learning English?
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