Phrasal Verb Examples: Usage, Rules And Meanings

Phrasal verbs or phrasal expressions are super important in English. They are used frequently by native speakers, often without thought. A phrasal verb can’t be translated, so getting the definition and context right is key. In this guide, we will give you some common phrasal verbs and phrasal verb examples, and at the end, there are a few games you can try to practice memorizing and using them.

Phrasal verbs are made up of groups of words that normally indicate an action. The structure is like this:

Verb + participle (and / or preposition / adverb) + object (sometimes)

For example:

  • They got off the bus.
  • We’re looking forward to meeting you.
  • The plane took off.
Phrasal verbs examples

Using Phrasal Verbs: Rules

There are no fast and hard rules for phrasal verbs, but here are some essential tips.

  • Remember that phrasal verbs similar to idioms don’t follow the original meaning. The world's original meaning inspires them, but the meaning changes from the original verb.
  • Intransitive phrasal verbs don’t need an object. For example, they always come back.
  • Transitive phrasal verbs sometimes take on an object. For example, he gave away his toys (object), or he gave his toys away (no object.)
  • If a phrasal verb contains more than 3 words, it’s inseparable. In other words, it has to be placed in the sentence together. They came away with lots of candies.
  • Phrasal verbs usually follow grammatical verb tenses. If you’re talking in the past, use the past participle of the verb; if you’re talking in the continuous use -ing.

Now, look at some commonly used phrasal verbs you may have seen before!

Common Phrasal Verbs

Here’s a word list of commonly used phrasal phrases. See if you can spot any you know!

Phrasal Verbs With ‘B’

Back Off

To leave, lower, to be less intense.

  • Could you back off the light, please?
  • Please back off. I don’t feel comfortable.

Break Up / Break Down

To finish a relationship. The breakdown of any relationship.

  • We broke up last night.
  • The relationship broke down, and so I can’t work there anymore.
  • Are we breaking up?

Bring Out

To reveal something, launch, emphasize something.

  • We’re bringing out our new free school lunch scheme.
  • They’re bringing out a menu.
  • Why don’t you bring out your baby photos?

Bring In 

To take something, introduce.

  • Bring in your homework by Tuesday.
  • We’re bringing in the head of marketing.
  • I’m bringing in cakes on my birthday.

Phrasal Verbs With ‘Come’

Come Away

Leaving a place with an object, thing, or feeling.

  • She came away with a good feeling.
  • He has to come away from the edge; it’s dangerous!

Come Along

To follow, move along.

  • Come along now; we’re going to be late!
  • It’s coming along!
  • Come along. It will be fun.

Come Back

To return.

  • Can you come back, please?
  • What time are you coming back?
  • Why don’t you come back to mine and we can watch a movie?

Come By

Pass by, visit someone.

  • What time are you coming by?
  • Why don’t you come by and pick up some cake?
  • She’ll come by later to walk the dog.

Phrasal Verbs With ‘Get’

Get Over

To recover from a specific experience, to communicate an idea (come across as)

  • We want to get over to the customer that we’re a small business.
  • Get over it!
  • It took him a week to get over his ear infection.

Get Off

To move, send something, escape discipline.

  • Please get off the couch!
  • I got off my punishment.

Get Through

To cope with a difficult experience, survive, manage, phone, or contact someone.

  • I don’t know how I’m going to get through these exams.
  • Why don’t you try and get through to them again?
  • I need to get through my schoolwork.

Get In

To enter.

  • Get in the car.
  • I couldn’t get in; the line was too big.
  • Why don’t you get in, and we’ll drive to Wendy’s?

Phrasal Verbs With ‘Put’

Put Back

To place something in its original place.

  • Could you put it back? We’re going home.
  • I’m putting it back.
  • Put back the candy.

Put In

To submit, to declare, to place.

  • Please put it in the box.
  • I’m putting in my notice next week.
  • What box am I putting it in?

Put Up

To make, construct, display, and get on with someone.

  • Put up that poster.
  • They’re putting up the call-back sheet now.
  • I don’t want to put up with him; he’s annoying!

Put Away

To place something in its original place.

  • Put it away.
  • Could you put the table away, please?

Put On

To place an item of clothing, etc., on your body. Operate a device.

  • Can I put the T.V on?
  • I’m putting on my new dress.
  • Why don’t you put on the new series?

Phrasal Verbs With ‘Pick’

Pick Up

To get, obtain.

  • Could you pick up takeout?
  • Stop picking up things from the floor!

Pick On

Repeatedly criticize someone, bully. To obsess over something.

  • My sister always picks on me.
  • The kids at school are picking on me.
  • I’m obsessed with picking on small details.

Pick Apart

To dissect small details, to brainstorm ideas.

  • Please stop picking apart my ideas.
  • Let’s pick apart that plan.
  • Today we’re going to pick apart our ideas.

Pick Out

To single out something or someone.

  • Pick out a dress you like.
  • Pick out the ideas you like, and we can brainstorm them.

Phrasal Verbs With ‘Set’

Set-Up 

To construct, to organize.

  • Let’s set up a meeting for next month.
  • Could you set up the equipment?

Set About 

To start something with enthusiasm.

  • He was up bright and early, setting about the room.
  • They set about the cleaning.
  • We set about creating a new plan.

Set Off

To leave, to begin a journey.

  • The sun was rising when they set off to the airport.
  • What time are we setting off this afternoon?

Phrasal Verbs With ‘Turn’

Turn Around 

To return, to go back.

  • Turn around at the next block.
  • If you turn around, you’ll see it.

Turn In 

To give in, to submit something.

  • Turn in your work on Monday.
  • If you turn in your manuscript, we will take a look.

Turn Off

To switch off.

  • Could you turn off the light, please?
  • Could you turn off the music; it’s way too loud.

Turn Down

Decrease volume.

  • Turn down the T.V!

Phrasal Verbs With ‘Work’

Work Out

To exercise, to figure out.

  • I’m gonna go work out today.
  • How often do you work out?
  • We have to work out how you're getting there.

Work On

To take time doing a task.

  • It’s gonna take me some time to work on this.
  • I’ll work on your proposal.

Work Towards

To focus on a task or goal.

  • She’s working towards buying a house.
  • I’m saving all my money to work towards getting a new bag.

Work Up

To focus on steps to achieve a goal, emotions building.

  • He got worked up about nothing!
  • Let's work up to that.

Less Common Phrasal Verb Examples

Here’s a list of uncommon phrasal verbs that you can use. Though native speakers use these phrasal verbs, they’re not common when learning English.

Aim To / Aim At

To strive for, to have a goal, to hit.

  • I’m aiming to complete 2,000 words today.
  • She thought he was aiming at her.

Blow Off

To put off, failing to keep an appointment with someone.

  • They never turned up. They blew me off!
  • I don’t want to blow her off.

Get Around To

To eventually finish something, to encourage something that doesn’t want to be done.

  • I’ll get around to that project when I’ve finished my work.
  • Isn’t it time that you got around to cleaning your bedroom?

Think Over 

To think about.

  • Think over our proposal and get back to us.
  • Why don’t you think it over and see what you think?

Games To Practice Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs can be tricky, but learning with games is a great idea, so they stick in your head.

Charades

Act out the phrasal verbs. Write the ones you find hard on a piece of paper and practice mimicking them. This is a great way to activate your physical and mental mind.

Phrasal Verb Hunt

Get a group of people and write down as many phrasal verbs on slips of paper as you want. Have the definitions on separate pieces of paper. Find the definitions dotted around the room and match them with the phrasal verbs.

Word Finder Tool

Use our learning tool to help you learn new phrasal verbs. Find a word and see if you can construct a phrasal verb sentence with it!

And there we have it! Plenty of phrasal verbs to get you started. There are tons of phrasal verbs in the English language, so every time you learn a new one, write it down and check its definition.

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