Phrasal verbs are a very important part of fluency when learning English, especially the useful phrasal verbs we’ve included this week. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to learn them except for memorizing them, but we’ll get you started here!
If you feel the need to prioritize the list, however, I would consider first learning the phrases you use often in your language, followed by phrases you could imagine saying, and then the rest. In other words, if you wouldn’t say it or use it in your mother tongue, then you probably won’t say it in English, either, and you can learn it later.
What is a Phrasal Verb?
Phrasal verbs consist of a verb + a preposition or participle which gives the verb a new meaning. In other words, the meaning of the phrasal verb may not be immediately clear in this new combination if you’ve never heard it before.
Both transitive (the verb takes an object) and intransitive (the verb has no object) verbs are used in phrasal verbs.
If the phrasal verb uses an intransitive verb, it cannot be separated from its preposition or participle in a sentence.
For example (intransitive, no object, inseparable):
- We broke up last week. (We stopped dating / seeing each other / ended our romantic relationship).
If the phrasal verb uses a transitive verb, it can be separated or not depending on the object of the sentence. There are two cases for this:
If the direct object is a noun, the phrasal verb can be kept together or separated.
- The smoke set the alarm off. (The smoke activated the alarm.)
- The smoke set off the alarm. (Same meaning- The smoke activated the alarm.)
If the object of the sentence is a pronoun (I, you, he, she, it, we, him, her, them, etc.), the object always comes between the verb and the preposition.
- They broke him down. (They made him feel bad.)
Examples of Phrasal Verbs
The best way to learn these useful phrasal verbs is to listen for them in conversation and to practice them yourself! Start by picking a few favorites and once you have mastered them, expand your knowledge to the next round of phrases.
Below are some examples of useful phrasal verbs with a quick definition to get you started:
22 Useful Phrasal Verbs
Bring up – to mention something (transitive)
Call off – to cancel something (transitive)
Cheer up – to try and make someone happier, or as a phrase of encouragement (transitive/intransitive)
Come across – to find by chance (intransitive)
Cut (it) out – stop it (intransitive)
Drop off – to leave something or someone at a destination (transitive)
Fall down – to drop to the ground (intransitive)
Fill in – to give someone details about something that happened while they were gone (transitive)
Get back to – to return to someone or something (transitive)
Give up – to stop trying (transitive)
Go out (with) – to go on a date with someone (intransitive)
Grow apart – to get distance from someone you used to be close to (intransitive)
Hang out – to spend time with someone in a casual way (transitive)
Hold back – to stop yourself or someone from doing something (transitive)
Log in/out/off – used with computers. Either signing in, out, or off of your account/computer (intransitive)
Look out – to watch for something (intransitive)
Pay back – to give someone money you owe them (transitive)
Put on – to get dressed (transitive)
Take out – to remove something, or to take someone on a date (transitive)
Turn around – to move so you’re facing the opposite direction (transitive)
Warm up (to) – to like someone more, the more you see them, usually used when you didn’t like them at first (transitive)
Work out – to exercise (intransitive)
Try using these phrasal verbs in your next conversation, and see how much more like a native you sound!
Is there a useful phrasal verb you use a lot that’s missing from this list? Share it with us in the comments below!
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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, yoga instructor, and will always try to cheer you up if you are feeling blue!