Idioms that End with Prepositions

Definition

Idioms that end with prepositions are typically phrasal verbs and consist of a verb followed by either a preposition, a particle, or a particle with a preposition. This type of prepositional idiom is used like a normal verb (describing the action of a subject) and may come at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence.

Examples of common prepositional idioms

Here are some of the most common prepositions found at the end of prepositional idioms:
  • up
  • down
  • on
  • off
  • with
To determine the meanings of idiomatic phrasal verbs, we must memorize as many combinations as possible. The following sections contain examples of prepositional idioms that end with the most common prepositions.
This is not an exhaustive list, however: there are other prepositions that can be used to form phrasal verbs, and many more combinations than the ones listed below. Additionally, many phrasal verbs have several completely unrelated meanings, which we can only learn by encountering them in writing and speech. See the section on Phrasal Verbs to learn more about how they are formed, and see the section Common Phrasal Verbs to find more examples.
To learn more idioms, phrases, and phrasal verbs and their meanings, check out The Free Dictionary’s Collection of Idioms and Phrases at idioms.thefreedictionary.com.

Idioms that end with up

The table below shows various examples of prepositional idioms that end with the preposition up:
Idiom
Meaning
Example Sentence
act up
to misbehave
“The toddlers have been acting up lately.”
blow up
to explode; to detonate or make explode
“Demolition workers blew up an old building to make room for a new mall.”
bring up
to mention (in conversation)
“It’s a good idea to bring up your career goals during a job interview.”
come up
to happen (usually unexpectedly)
“Something came up yesterday, so I was unable to attend the event.”
give up
to stop (doing something); to quit
“Leah is trying to give up smoking.”
hang up
to end a phone call
“Always hang up if a telemarketer tries to sell you something.”
make up
“make up” has two unrelated meanings: to create (something) through one’s imagination, or to come to terms or settle an argument (with someone)
“I made up a fairy tale to tell my children at bedtime.”
“The siblings finally made up after two days of fighting.”
mix up
“mix up” has two similar meanings: to confuse, or to or assemble something out of order
“I always mix up the twins when I see them—one of these days I’ll learn to tell them apart.”
“Someone must have mixed up the photo albums, because these pictures are all out of order.”
show up
to come, arrive, or appear
“The groom waited all day, but the bride never showed up.”
shut up
to stop talking; to be quiet
“If you don’t shut up, I’m leaving!”
throw up
to vomit
“The girl became sick and threw up several times.”
turn up
to (re)appear; to be found
“I’m sure your diary will turn up somewhere.”

Idioms that end with down

The table below shows various examples of prepositional idioms that end with the preposition down:
Idiom
Meaning
Example Sentence
break down
“break down” has two unrelated meanings: to stop functioning due to a mechanical failure, or to start crying or become overwhelmingly emotional (about something)
“My car broke down on the way here, so I had to walk the rest of the way.”
“The boy broke down when he realized he’d failed the exam.”
die down
to lessen in intensity or become weaker
“The wind has died down a bit.”
let down
to disappoint
“I feel like I’ve let down my parents.”
pipe down
to be less loud
Pipe down or I’m sending you to your room!”
play down
to make something seem less important than it truly is
“Successful people often play down their achievements to avoid sounding arrogant.”
step down
to resign or retire from a position
“A prominent political figure recently stepped down in response to a scandal.”
turn down
to reject
“She has turned down many marriage proposals.”
wind down
to relax
“Let’s wind down with some popcorn and a movie.”

Idioms that end with on

The table below shows various examples of prepositional idioms that end with the preposition on:
Idiom
Meaning
Example Sentence
catch up on
to get informed about something; to get up to date with something
“Helen plans to catch up on her reading tonight.”
count on
to rely or depend on
“I can always count on you to lend me a hand when I need it most.”
drag on
to continue for a long time and become boring or tedious
“The man’s speech dragged on for well over an hour.”
go on
to continue
“It might seem like the end of the world, but life still goes on after setbacks like this.”
grow on
to eventually become liked by
“This new flavor of ice cream has really grown on me.”
hang on
to wait; to be patient
“Could you hang on a moment?”
move on
to stop focusing on the past and continue with one’s life
“Gerald struggled to move on after losing the tennis match.”
pick on
to tease; to make fun of or bully
“You shouldn’t pick on your little brother.”
tell on
to report someone else’s wrongdoing to a person of authority
“She went to the teacher to tell on her friend.”
try on
to put on a garment or piece of clothing to see how it fits
“I’d like to try on this shirt, please.”

Idioms that end with off

The table below shows various examples of prepositional idioms that end with the preposition off:
Idiom
Meaning
Example Sentence
back off
to withdraw or retreat
“Some salespeople don’t know when to back off.”
brush off
to ignore something; to pretend something important is not important
“You can’t just brush off what happened between you two.”
call off
to cancel
“Employees were forced to call off the strike.”
drop off
to take to and deposit at some location
“Dustin usually drops off his shirts at the dry cleaner before work.”
kick off
to begin
“They say the festival should kick off around noon.”
lay off
to terminate employees
“Oil companies have had to lay off many workers.”
nod off
to doze; to fall asleep
“I always nod off during long ceremonies.”
pull off
to successfully complete a difficult task
“Penny pulled off the challenging dance routine.”
show off
“show off” has two distinct meanings: to display something one is proud of, or to act as if one is superior to others
“Parents love to show off their children’s artwork.”
“That girl is always showing off.”
take off
“take off” has two related but distinct meanings: to become successful or popular (usually for businesses), or to depart or go into the air (e.g., an airplane)
“My online business really took off after it was mentioned on the news.”
“The plane took off an hour late.”
wear off
to lose effectiveness; to stop having an effect
“I think the pain medicine is starting to wear off.”

Idioms that end with with

The table below shows various examples of prepositional idioms that end with the preposition with:
Idiom
Meaning
Example Sentence
come down with
to become sick; to fall ill
“Dimitri came down with a terrible cold.”
come up with
to think of, suggest, or develop (an idea)
“Scientists are trying to come up with a solution to climate change.”
do away with
to stop or abolish; to get rid of
“Some people want to do away with taxes.”
get along with
to have a good or friendly relationship with someone
“They don’t seem to get along with each other.”
get away with
to avoid punishment for a wrongdoing
“The criminals didn’t get away with the robbery.”
go through with
to undertake or complete (usually an undesirable or difficult action)
“Will your family go through with the move to Texas?”
keep up with
to stay up to date; to stay informed about
“I can’t keep up with celebrity gossip.”
put up with
to tolerate
“She shouldn’t put up with her brother’s pranks anymore.”

Idioms that end with other prepositions

Numerous other prepositions can be used with verbs and adverbs to create idiomatic phrasal verbs. The table below shows various examples of idioms that end with some of these less commonly used prepositions:
Idiom
Meaning
Example Sentence
come across
to find something unexpectedly; to meet or see someone unexpectedly
“He came across a bizarre inscription on the base of the statue.”
“You might come across some of my relatives if you move to London.”
come to
to regain consciousness
“Minutes passed before he came to.”
get at
to mean or to express
“What is he trying to get at?”
get by
to barely manage to deal with a problem or extreme situation
“The hiker managed to get by on a single bottle of water.”
get over
to recover from or successfully deal with something (usually an illness or difficult situation)
“She’s finally getting over her cold.”
“He can’t get over his self-esteem issues.”
go through
to experience (something difficult)
“Dad is going through a mid-life crisis.”
hang out
to socialize or get together (with someone)
“Do you want to hang out this weekend?”
root for
to cheer for someone; to support or take sides with someone
“You’d better root for me if I make it to the semi-finals.”
sink in
to become clearly and gradually understood
“He let the college’s rejection sink in before deciding to reapply the following year.”
stick around
to wait, stay, or remain (in a place)
“Is she sticking around for the next act?”
tag along
to accompany
“My little sister likes to tag along when I go out with my friends.”
Quiz

1. Which of the following prepositions is not commonly found at the end of prepositional idioms?





2. Which of the following sentences contains an idiom that ends with a preposition?





3. Which of the following sentences does not contain an idiom that ends with a preposition?





4. Which of the following sentences uses an idiomatic phrasal verb incorrectly?





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