Common Phrasal Verbs

What are common phrasal verbs?

As we saw when we looked at how phrasal verbs are formed, their meanings tend to be completely idiomatic—you cannot guess what they mean simply by looking at their individual components.
Unfortunately, the only way to learn phrasal verbs is by encountering them in speech and writing, until you become familiar enough with them that you are able to use them yourself.
Below, we’ll look at an extensive list of example sentences that use common verbs to create various phrasal verbs. The meaning of each phrasal verb will be beside each sentence, but remember: phrasal verbs often have several completely unrelated meanings. It’s best to check a reliable dictionary to learn their other meanings.
This is also not by any means an exhaustive list—there are several hundred different phrasal verbs in English. For one of the largest dictionaries of idioms and phrasal verbs, go to The Free Dictionary’s Collection of Idioms and Phrases at idioms.thefreedictionary.com.

Phrasal verbs with be

Phrasal Verb
Definition
Example sentence
be about to
To intend to do or be near to doing something in the immediate future
“Hi Johnny, I was about to call you.”
be after (someone)
To be hunting, looking for, and/or chasing after (someone)
“The police are after a man who robbed a bank yesterday.”
be after (something)
To want (something) from someone
“He’s being so nice to me these days. He is after something, for sure.”
be down to
To have an amount of something reduced to a lower or minimal number
“After months of dieting, I am down to 190 pounds.”
“I am down to my last dollar.”
be down to
To be the result of or primarily caused by something
“A large number of diseases are down to genetic traits.”
be down with
To be suffering from, as a disease or illness
“I can’t go to work today because I am down with the flu.”
be in
To be present in a given location
“I’m afraid Molly is not in at the moment.”
“I will let you know as soon as the doctor is in.”
be into
To like something very much; to be particularly enthusiastic about something
“I’m really into this band right now.”
be over
To be finished, ended, or complete
“The worst is over. He should start to recover in a few days.”
“It’s over between us; we can’t see each other anymore.”
be out of
To no longer have something
“Sorry, but we are out of coffee at the moment.”
be up
To be at a higher level
“The price of gas is up again.”
be up
To be occurring, especially in reference to strange or noteworthy events
“Something is up; the staff are all acting strange.”
be up
To be awake and out of bed
“John’s not up yet. He’s still sleeping.”
be up against
To meet or contend with difficulties or impediments
“I’m up against a lot of competition these days.”
be up to
To be someone’s decision or responsibility
“For now, the planning stage is up to you.”
be up to
To be in the midst of doing or planning
“I am going to see what the children are up to.”
be up to
To be capable of doing (something) competently
“We’ll have to fire him. He isn’t up to the job.”

Phrasal Verbs with come

Phrasal Verb
Definition
Example sentence
come across
To find unexpectedly
“I came across that old watch of mine when I was cleaning out the drawers.”
come across
To give a certain impression through the way one acts
“She comes across as a really confident person.”
come into
To acquire, especially through inheritance or chance
“John has been buying some flashy cars lately. He must have come into a bit of money.”
come up with
To think of, develop, or invent
“I’m finding it difficult to come up with new ideas.”
come up against
To meet and be forced to deal with some impediment, obstacle, or difficulty
“We’ve come up against several political and legal problems.”
come down with
To catch or become infected with, as a virus or disease
“I don’t feel very well today. I think I’ve come down with the flu.”
come (a)round
To change one’s mind about and agree to something after some persuasion or time
“Your father doesn’t want you to have a dog, but give him a day or two and I’m sure he’ll come (a)round.”
come back to
To be recalled in one’s memory
“I couldn’t remember her name, but after a few minutes it came back to me.”

Phrasal Verbs with get

Phrasal Verb
Definition
Example sentence
get over
To recover from or feel better about some sad or traumatic event
“I can’t seem to get over the death of my cat. I feel sadder as the days go by.”
get over
To believe, understand, or no longer be surprised by something
“I can’t get over the way she spoke to me. She has no manners whatsoever.”
get on
To have an easy, friendly relationship with someone; to be on good terms with someone
“My husband and I get on so well together.”
get away
To escape, as from trouble, danger, or pursuit
“The police tried to catch the bank robbers but they managed to get away.”
get away with
To avoid blame, responsibility, or conviction for some wrongdoing
“The criminal got away with the crime. There wasn’t enough evidence to convict him.”
get out of
To find a way of avoiding having to do, confront, or deal with something
“How can I get out of this mess I'm in.”
get (a)round to
To find the time to do or complete something that one has been meaning to do
“I still haven’t gotten (a)round to fixing the broken shutter.”
get back
To return, usually home
“What time did you get back last night?”
get rid of
To dispose of something that is no longer needed or wanted
“I want to get rid of that old mattress.”
get through to
To make contact with someone, especially by phone
“I can’t get through to Sally. Her phone has been busy all morning.”
get through to
To make someone understand or comprehend something
“It is difficult to get through to him—he never listens to a word you say.”
get through to
To advance to a higher stage in a competition
“We won in overtime and managed to get through to the finals.”

Phrasal Verbs with give

Phrasal Verb
Definition
Example sentence
give away
To donate something; to bestow something upon someone
“He’s a generous man. He gives away half of his salary to charity each month.”
give away
To present the bride to the groom, traditionally by the bride’s father
“In some countries, it is the custom for the father of the bride to give his daughter away at the wedding.”
give back
To return something to someone
“Can you give back that book I lent you?”
give in (to something)
To surrender (to) or stop resisting (something)
“No matter how much they try to get you to accept a lower offer, don’t give in.”
“If you are on a diet, it's hard not to give in to temptation.”
give in
To collapse
“The floor gave in after the flood.”
give out
To distribute to others
“Can you give out these books to the rest of the class please?”
give up
To relinquish one’s position to someone else
“When I am on the bus, I rarely see anyone give up their seat to the elderly.”
give up
To stop doing something, often permanently
“The doctor has told me to give up smoking.”
give up
To abandon
“After searching for hours on end, the mountain rescue team finally gave up all hope of finding the missing hikers.

Phrasal Verbs with look

Phrasal Verb
Definition
Example sentence
look into
To investigate
“The police are looking into reports of a robbery last night.”
look up
To find or seek information, as from a list or some reference source
“Can you look up John’s phone number for me please?”
look forward to
To anticipate with pleasure or excitement
“I am looking forward to seeing my family again after six months of living abroad.”
look out
To pay attention to or be careful of something, especially danger
Look out, there’s a car coming!”
look after
To take care of or be responsible for someone or something
“Can you look after my cat while I’m away?”
look down on
To regard as inferior
“My neighbors look down on us because we have less money.”
look on
To observe as a spectator
“The crowd looked on as the firemen tried to put out the fire.”
look over
To examine or inspect
“He carefully looked over the contract before signing it.”
look up to
To admire and respect
“She really looks up to her boss. He has taught her many things.”

Phrasal Verbs with break

Phrasal Verb
Definition
Example sentence
break down
To stop functioning
“My car broke down on the highway today.”
break down
To become very emotionally upset; to begin crying
“She broke down when she was told her cat had died.”
break up
To end a romantic relationship
“Have you heard the news? Sally and John broke up.”
break into
To force entry
“Burglars broke into my house last night.”
break away from
To become free from some restriction or restraint
“The police caught one of the burglars, but he managed to break away from them.”
break out
To escape from some confinement or imprisonment
“The other burglar was put in prison, but he managed to break out.”
break out
To appear or begin suddenly and spread quickly
“An epidemic of flu has broken out.”
break out in
To have a large amount of something, usually a skin condition, appear suddenly and spread quickly
“My face has broken out in pimples, and I look terrible.”
break even
To achieve a result with no loss or gain in profit
“The company broke even this year.”

Phrasal Verbs with pick

Phrasal Verb
Definition
Example sentence
pick up
To go and collect someone or something, especially by car
“Can you pick up the children after school?”
pick up
To receive, as a radio signal
“My cell phone never picks up a signal when I’m in the house.”
pick up
To attempt to find or become acquainted with someone for romantic or sexual purposes
“He always wants to go pick up girls at bars.”
pick on
To deliberately harass or tease someone
“You’re always picking on me, and I wish you would stop.”
pick on
To select or choose someone
“The teacher always picks on Jane. She never gives the other students a chance to answer.”

Phrasal Verbs with put

Phrasal Verb
Definition
Example sentence
put out
To extinguish something, such as a flame
“We have to put out the fire before it spreads to the rest of the house.”
put out
To put an animal outside the house
“Would you put the cat out for a while?”
put (someone/oneself) out
To inconvenience someone or oneself on someone else’s behalf
“It would be great if you could do this for me, but don’t put yourself out.”
put (someone) up
To host (someone) in one’s house
“I can put you up for the weekend, but no longer than that.”
put up with
To tolerate
“He couldn’t put up with her any longer.”
put up with
To make something available to be sold
“They’ve put up their house for sale.”
put in
To spend or invest, especially time
“He puts in 12 hours at work every day.”
put off
To delay doing or commencing something
“See if you can put the meeting off for an hour. We still need more time.”
put (someone) off
To make someone uninterested in or disinclined to do something
“The sight of the octopus really put me off my food.”
put aside/away
To save for future use
“I’ve put away/aside enough money to retire early.”
put aside for
To reserve something for someone until a later time
“Could you put this blouse aside for me.”
put through to
To connect someone with another person, usually via telephone
“Could you put me through to the manager please?”
put through
To subject someone to something unpleasant or undesirable
“This job has put me through so much already.”
put away
To store in or return to the proper location
“Can you please put away all those books lying around?”
put down
To mock, belittle, or make to appear foolish
“She’s always putting her boyfriend down.”
put down
To euthanize an animal
“Our poor cat is so old that we have to have him put down.”
put on
To add to or increase the amount of
“I’ve put on a lot of weight recently.”
put on
To pretend or act
“He seems angry, but I know he’s just putting it on.”
put (someone) on
To deceive or tease someone
“I really thought I had won the prize. I can’t believe he was putting me on the whole time!”
put on
To pass a telephone to someone
“Give me one second, and I’ll put him on.”

Phrasal Verbs with run

Phrasal Verb
Definition
Example sentence
run into
To encounter someone by chance
“I ran into an old friend of mine yesterday while I was out shopping.”
run out of
To exhaust the supply of something
“We’ve run out of coffee again. Could you get some on your way home?”
run up
To accrue or accumulate, especially indebtedness
“He ran up a huge bill at dinner.”
run away with
To hurriedly leave with someone else, as to elope
“His husband ran away with the secretary.”
run over
To hit someone or something with a vehicle, usually a car
“He’s still very upset after running over the cat last night.”
run through
To quickly discuss, summarize, or outline
“OK, can we just run through the main points again?”
run to
To immediately seek assistance from someone
“He always runs to his mother whenever he’s in trouble.”
run on
To be powered by
“Those new cars run on electricity, but they are so expensive.”
run up against
To encounter an obstacle, difficulty, or problem
“The company ran up against some problems initially, but now things are operating smoothly.”

Phrasal Verbs with take

Phrasal Verb
Definition
Example sentence
take up
To begin, especially a hobby or pastime
“I’m thinking of taking up a new hobby.”
take up
To occupy, such as space or time
“I’m going to buy a smaller table. This takes up too much room.”
take up
Of clothes, to shorten or tighten
“My new pants are too long for me. I’m going to have to them taken up a bit.”
take to
To have a newfound liking or appreciation for
“The boss has really taken to the new intern.”
take out
To obtain a legal agreement, such as insurance or a financial loan
“I’ve taken out an insurance policy on my house.”
take over
To obtain control of
“The company has been taken over by a Spanish corporation.”
take off
To leave the ground and begin flight
“You’ve just missed the plane: it took off a few minutes ago.”
take off
To remove an article of clothing
Take off your jacket. It’s hot in here.”
take off
To become successful or popular
“Business has really taken off this year.”
take off
To not go to work or school for a certain period of time
“I’m really tired. I’m going to take a day off tomorrow.”
takes after
To be similar in character or appearance to a close relative
“He takes after his father in his love of tennis.”
take back
To return something to the place where it was purchased
“My new cell phone doesn’t work. I’m going to take it back tomorrow and ask for a refund.”
take on
To recruit or employ
“Why don’t you apply for a job at the new phone company? They are taking on new staff.”
take on
To agree or commit to doing something
“I’ve taken on too much work. How will I ever find the time to finish it all?”
take in
To give shelter and/or assistance
“She’s a very kind person. She always takes in stray dogs that she finds in the street.”
As we said already, there are hundreds of different phrasal verbs in English. If you would like to learn more about the different meanings of phrasal verbs, as well as some interesting idioms and proverbs, go to The Free Dictionary’s Collection of Idioms and Phrases at idioms.thefreedictionary.com.
Complete English Grammar Rules is available for purchase as Paperback and Kindle eBook.
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