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The grammar of phrasal verbs

There are four main types of phrasal verbs:

(1) Verb +adverb (no object)

e.g. get on = have a good relationship with someone

Mike and Sally aren't getting on very well at the moment.

The verb and adverb cannot be separated by other words.

(2) Verb +adverb +object/Verb +object +adverb

e.g. give away =distribute for free

He gave away all his money. OR: He gave all his money away.

The verb and adverb can be separated, but if the object is a pronoun (e.g. it, me, them),the adverb must come after the object

e.g. He gave it away. NOT: He gave away it.

(3) Verb +preposition +object

e.g. look after =take care of

He looked after his parents for many years.

The verb and the preposition cannot be separated.

(4) Verb +adverb +preposition +object

e.g. put up with =tolerate

I don't know how she puts up with his terrible behaviour.

The verb, adverb and preposition cannot be separated.

The grammatical type of each phrasal verb below is indicated by the number in brackets.


break down(1):stop working, usually a machine or vehicle

e.g. If my car breaks down again, I'm going to sell it.

break(something)down(2):destroy something such as a door or wall

e.g. The firemen broke the door down and ran inside to look for the children.

bring(someone)up(2):look after and educate a child

e.g. Do you think it is difficult to bring children up as a single parent?

carry on(3): continue doing something

e.g. He carried on watching TV though his mother had told him to go to bed.

catch on(to something)(1):understand

e.g. The teacher explained it st least three times, but Helen still didn't catch on.

close(something)down(2):end an activity

e.g. I read in the paper last night that they are closing my old school down.

come down(1):fall to the ground

e.g. Did you see that the apple tree next door came down in the night?

come out in(something)(4):often when your body develops spots or rashes

e.g. He came out in red marks all over his face and neck.

cut(something)down(2):bring to the ground

e.g. If we don't cut that tree down soon, it will fall down.

cut down on(something)(4):reduce the amount

e.g. You must cut down on all the cakes and chocolates you eat. It's not good for you.


e.g. If you cut some of these late nights out, you won't feel so tired in the mornings.

die down(1):come to an end

e.g. She waited until the laughter died down before she continued her speech.

eat out(1):eat in a restaurant instead of at home

e.g. I'd like to eat out tonight. How about going to that little Italian restaurant on the high street?

get(something)across(2):communicate an idea

e.g. He had an interesting plan for reducing the level of pollution in the city, but it took him a long time to get his ideas across.

get away with(something)(4):avoid being caught and punished

e.g. He is always late for work. How does he get away with it?

get by(1):survive

e.g. It was hard to get by on one salary when Tom lost his job, but things are OK now.

get(something)down(2):make a written record

e.g. Simon, could you make sure you get his telephone number down?

get down to(something)(4):start doing seriously

e.g. I really must get down to writing my Christmas cards otherwise it will soon be too late.

get on (with something)(1): have a good relationship

e.g. My brother and I are different kinds of people. I've never really got on with him.

get out(1):have time outside the home

e.g. You should get out more. It's not good being inside with the children like this.

get over (something)(3): recover from

e.g. Her grandmother died a couple of months ago and it's taking her a long time to get over it.

get round(someone)(3): persuade someone to let you do something

e.g. My father doesn't want to lend me his car, but I know how to get round him.

get through (to someone)(1): make contact, often by telephone

e.g. I've been trying to get through to you all day, but your phone has been constantly engaged.

get up (to something)(4): do something, often naughty and bad

e.g. OK, kids, what did you get up to while we were away?

Get (something) away(2):1.donate for free

e.g. I think we should give away all these old toys to the local children's hospital.

2. show, reveal

e.g. His bored expression gave away how he really felt.

Give (something) back(2):return

e.g. Lend me $10,will you? I promise I'll give it back tomorrow.

give in (to someone)(1):surrender, agree to what someone else wants

e.g. You shouldn't give in to him if you think he is wrong.

give off (something)(3): produce

e.g. Plastic gives off a horrible smell when it is burnt.

Give (something)out(2): distribute

e.g. The teacher gave files and books out to all the students.

Give (something) up(2): stop

e.g. All my friends have given smoking up this year. It's incredible.

go down (1): fall

e.g. The price of houses has gone down by five per cent in the last year.

go on (1): continue doing something

e.g. She went on talking while he made lunch.

grow up (1): become an adult

e.g. I grew up in the north of England, but I moved down to London for my first job.

hold on (1): wait

e.g. Could you hold on for a moment while I get a pen and paper?

keep on (1): continue doing something

e.g. It kept on raining for the rest of the day.

keep up(with someone)(1): maintain the same level

e.g. It's very difficult to keep up with her because she walks so fast.

Let (someone) off(2): give someone a light punishment or no punishment at all for something they have done wrong

e.g. As it was his first offence the judge let him off with a small fine.

look after (someone/something) (1): take care of

e.g. Would you mind looking after our cats while we are away on holiday?

look out (1):pay attention, be careful

e.g. Look out! There's a car coming.

Look (something) up(2):find information, often in a reference book

e.g. He looked up all the new words in his bilingual dictionary.

look up to (someone)(4):admire, respect

e.g. I have always looked up to my mother. She's so patient and kind.

make for (someone/something)(3):go towards

e.g. They made for the nearest cafe when it started to rain.

make of (something)(3): think of

e.g. What do you make of that new book by Jason Bryant?

I couldn't understand a word of it!

make out (1):pretend

e.g. She made out that she had been at home all evening when in fact she had gone out to see Martin.

make (something) out(2):see clearly

e.g. I can see someone coming towards us, but I can't make out who it is.

make (something) up(2):invent

e.g. I don't believe what she told us about meeting Elton John. I think she is making it up.

make (a room, bed, etc.)(2):prepare

e.g. We need to make the spare room up if Jim is going to stay here tonight.

make (time)up(2):get back

e.g. We left late, but if I drive fast, I think we can make up the lost time.

make up(with someone)(1): become friends again

e.g. You shouldn't get angry with your sister. Please go and find her and make up.

mind out(1):pay attention

e.g. Mind out! you nearly walked in that puddle.

pick on(someone)(3):treat someone badly or unfairly

e.g. The other boys are really horrible to Michael. They are always picking on him.


e.g. He is very quick. You just tell him how to do something once and he's picked it up.


e.g. I try and put a little by each month. We'd like to go on a holiday to Greek islands next year.

put(an animal)down(2):destroy

e.g. It was very sad. Our horse broke its leg and was in terrible pain. We had to have it put down.

put(someone)down(2):criticise someone or try and make them look stupid or insignificant

e.g. I think he puts me down in meetings because he never has any ideas of his own.

put(something)down(2):write, make a record of

e.g. A lot of people seem interested. Why don't you put all their names down and then we'll send them a copy.

put(something)off(2):postpone, make later

e.g. Can we put the football match off for a week because some of our team are ill with flu?


e.g. Could you put your cigarette out, please? It's no-smoking area.

put(someone)through(2):connect(especially by telephone)

e.g. Could you put me through to Mr Jenkins' secretary, please? I need to change the time of my appointment.

put(someone)up(2):give accommodation

e.g. Of course we can put you up for a few days while you're looking for a flat. There's no problem - we've got a spare room.

put(the price)up(2):increase

e.g. If we put up our prices again, we're going to lose some of our best customers.

put up with(someone/something)(4):tolerate

e.g. I can't put up with the noise from the next door's party any more. I'm going to ask them to turn the music down.

rub(something)out(2):remove something(usually with a rubber or a cloth)

e.g. I think you should rub the first part of your essay out and try again.

run out(of something)(1):finish, have no more left

e.g. Could you buy some more milk when you go to the shops. We have nearly run out.

sell out(of something)(1):finish because everything has been bought

e.g. I'm sorry we've sold out of bread. Why don't you try the supermarket?

slow down(1): reduce speed

e.g. Please slow down. You're driving so fast, it's making me frightened.

speak up(1):say things more loudly

e.g. You need to speak up a little, I'm afraid I can't hear very well.

stand out(1):appear clearly

e.g. He usually stands out in a crowd. He's well over two metres tall!

stay out(1):remain away from home

e.g. Your mother doesn't like you staying out all night.

Please be home by midnight.

stick out(1):appear clearly

e.g. I'm going to really stick out at school. I'm the only person who hasn't got a pair of the right kind of trainers.

take after(someone)(3):be similar to in character

e.g. He takes after his father, he's very friendly and outgoing.

take(something)down(2):write, make a note

e.g. Sharon, could you take down the following letter for Brian Stevens at CBC?

take(someone)in(2):make someone believe something which isn't true

e.g. When he told her he had come to check the gas meter, she was completely taken in.

take off(1):suddenly increase, do well

e.g. Interest in the environment has taken off in the last couple of years and I don't really understand why.

take(someone)off(2):imitate someone to make other people laugh

e.g. You should hear Simon taking off the Prime Minister - he's very funny.

take(time)off(2):have a holiday/change

e.g. You should take a few days off work, you're not looking at all well.

take (someone)on(2):employ

e.g. I'm thinking of taking another secretary on. Do you know anybody suitable?

take(something)over(2):take control

e.g. He's very dominating. When he joins a discussion, he usually takes over and no one else has a chance to say anything.

take(something)up(2):start a new hobby

e.g. I've taken up yoga recently. It's changing my life.

take up(spacer/time)(2):occupy

e.g. This sofa takes up far too much room in here. We should move it downstairs.

tell(someone)off(2):speak to someone angrily because they have done something wrong

e.g. My Maths teacher told me off for not paying attention in class.

throw(something)out(2):get rid of

e.g. Don't throw those boxes out. They might come in useful one day.

watch out(1):pay attention

e.g. Watch out! There's a car coming.

wear (someone)out(2):to make very tired, no energy left

e.g. I've spent the day shopping, cleaning and cooking and now I'm worn out.


e.g. You've been trying to do that puzzle for ages. Haven't you worked it out yet?

Date: 2016-01-03; view: 1263

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