Meaning: to become known, to become public knowledge Examples: I don't want it to get out that I am leaving. Please don't tell anyone. If this bad news gets out, people will panic and try to run away.
Many of my clients are not native English speakers.
One thing that many of them would like to do, in addition to getting their engineering projects approved, is sound more like a native speaker. And if you want to do that, becoming comfortable with phrasal verbs is an absolute necessity.
Not just hearing them and knowing what they mean. Using them.
In that spirit, I offer this list of the 100 top phrasal verbs in the English language.
Please pardon the old videos, I shot them at an earlier time when I had more hair. 😉
(Fun fact: Did you know that most English speakers are not native speakers?)
Meaning: to construct or build something Examples: The people set up camp by the lake. The child was building something with her blocks, so I asked her what she was setting up.
Meaning: to continue without interruption Examples: The discussion ran on for hours. Don't start that book, it runs on for hundreds of pages and never says anything.
Meaning: to be very busy doing something Examples: My new boss asks me to do a million different things. She makes me run around all the time. I am tired, I have been running around all day, fixing the house, doing the shopping, etc.
Meaning: to explain something Examples: This is a complicated subject, I don't know how to put it across to you. If someone does not understand that other subject, it is hard to put this across to them.
Meaning: to escape from something Examples: The prisoners ran away from the prison during the fire. I don't like my job. I don't like this city. I want to run away from everything.
Meaning: to allow someone to know something Examples: I let him in on the big changes happening in our office. I never know what he is doing, he never lets me in on his life.
Meaning: to cut into pieces Examples: My mother cut the onions up before cooking the meat. This big project will be easier if you cut it up into smaller pieces.
Meaning: to cross something in order to make a shorter route Examples: If I cut across the field, it’ll save time. If I cut across the school, I can get to work earlier.
Meaning: to make something shorter or smaller Examples: The knife is very sharp, it will easily cut into the cake. I like my family time very much, I don't want my new job to cut into it.
Meaning: to think about the past Examples: It is important to look ahead at the future, and to not spend too much time looking back. When I look back at my childhood, I realize it was a very good childhood.
Meaning: to reduce something Examples: My doctor told me to cut back on salt. Money is tight these days, we need to cut back on expenses.
Meaning: to remove something from a high position Examples: He took the vase down from the high shelf. I don't like that man, I think he got his position by stealing it. I am going to take him down.
Meaning: to take control of something Examples: He loves to control everything. If we invite him to the party, he will try to take everything over. A new boss took the company over last week.
Meaning: to give a short visit, often just to make sure someone is okay Examples: My father is very old. Can you look in on him a few times each week, just to make sure he is okay? When I was in the hospital, my best friend came to look in on me every day.
Meaning: to visit a place and look at the things in it Examples: When I visit a new city, I like to just look around the place. When I go to a store, sometimes I just want to look around at things.
Meaning: to think about the future Examples: I know this won't happen for another year or two, but I just want to look ahead. The past is finished. We must look ahead.
Meaning: to read a lot about something in order to learn about it Examples: I wanted to learn more about the war, so I read up on it. Before we met, I read up on you.
Meaning: to read something again, out loud, to someone else Examples: That last sentence was really important, can you read that back to everyone in the room? Could you read that back to me? I want to hear your pronunciation.
Meaning: to change something into something else Examples: I don't like my new boyfriend. He keeps trying to make me into someone I am not. If you add blue paint, you can make red paint into purple paint.
Meaning: to not tell someone something, to not let someone near something Examples: He doesn't like bad news, so I try to keep bad news away from him. It is important to keep medicine away from children.
Meaning: to not touch something, or to not discuss something Examples: He talks a lot, but he keeps off the subject of his divorce. I ask the children to keep off the grass.
Meaning: to not allow someone to go outside Examples: Because they were noisy during class, the teacher kept the children in after class. The dog is barking a lot today, I am keeping him in because it is raining.
Meaning: to move slowly, to do something slowly Examples: Don't hang around, you have a train to catch! I am doing nothing today, just relaxing and hanging around the house.
Meaning: To take a vacation from something (or to something), to escape from something Examples: I have been working too hard, I really need to get away to a tropical island. Sometimes I just want to get away from this big city.
Meaning: to start a journey Examples: They set off for London at 5pm. I want to set off for a distant location.
Meaning: to continue with something Examples: When I am gone, I want you to carry on with this project. Even though he asked me to stop singing, I decided to carry on like I was before.
Meaning: to mark with a tick mark, to mark something as done Examples: I like my "to do" list to be clear. Please wait while I check off these last two things. Here is a list, let's check off the names of the people we don't want at the party.
Meaning: to solve, to explain, or to remove a problem Examples: This project is confusing, I hope he can clear it up. It rained a lot today, maybe it will clear up tomorrow.
Meaning: to leave from somewhere Examples: We need to clear out of here before that bad man comes back. I haven't paid the rent in many months. The landlord asked me to clear out of the house.
Meaning: to open a space, to put things away Examples: You should clear away all your toys before bedtime. I need to clear away the trees before I can farm this land.
Meaning: to become popular Examples: This game will catch on among young people. In the past, that song was not popular, but now it is catching on.
Meaning: to give somebody the latest news or information about something Examples: Can someone catch us up on the latest news? He doesn't know about the new products. I will catch him up on them.
Meaning: to recover, to make something better, to fix a problem you created Examples: Nothing can make up for a lost child. I came to work late yesterday, so I have to work this weekend to make up for it.
Meaning: to allow somebody to stay in your home Examples: My house has an extra bed, so I can take in one more person. Our friend was homeless after the fire, so we took his family in.
Meaning: to make peace after a fight Examples: I had a big fight with my dad, but we made up and have a good relationship now. Let's not fight, please come home and let's make up.
Meaning: to wait for a short time Examples: She told me to hang on, she would arrive in 10 minutes. I am in the middle of an important task, you need to hang on for a few minutes, and then we can talk.
Meaning: to stay at one place for a short time on the way to another place Examples: They stopped over in Singapore on their way to Australia. We stopped over at the grocery store on our way to my parents' house.
Meaning: to land (an airplane) Examples: The plane touched down at 6:38pm. This flight is really long, when do we touch down in Hong Kong?
Meaning: to perform a task Examples: He carried out the work like we planned. I carried out my promise to her.
Meaning: to continue past the planned ending time Examples: The meeting carried over past lunch. The game went long, it carried over until evening.
Meaning: to quickly drink something Examples: At the bar after work, we knocked back 6 vodkas. After exercise, I like to knock back a tall glass of cold water.
Meaning: to talk to someone whom one has not seen for a long time Examples: It's always good to catch up with old friends. I haven't seen you in years. We should meet for coffee and catch up.
Meaning: to stop working for the rest of the day Examples: It's nice and sunny today, we should knock off early and go get some ice cream. What time do you knock off today? I want to take you to a movie this evening.
Meaning: to start the operation or flow of something Examples: She turned her PC on and opened her browser. It was dark in the room, so I asked her to turn on the light.
Meaning: to tolerate, endure, or bear something or somebody Examples: I’m leaving, I don't want to put up with you anymore. We put up with the high prices because we like living here.
Meaning: to stop making an effort; to admit defeat Examples: It’s not like you to give up so easily on an assignment so early. We knew we couldn't beat the other team, so we gave up in the second half of the game.
Meaning: to enter a database, system, or software Examples: I tried to log in with my username, but I couldn’t remember my password. Before you can use Facebook, you have to log in.
Meaning: to find, or try to find, the answer to something; to resolve a dispute Examples: She worked out the math problem quickly; I was still trying to solve it. We had a big fight, but we worked it out and are friends again.
Meaning: to accept someone’s wish or stop fighting; to admit defeat. Examples: He gave in to the group's pressure and decided to accept the decision. My mother told me to not give in to peer pressure.
Meaning: to make a paper copy of information stored on a computer Examples: My boss asked me to print out the report and give it to him. I need to print this document out before I mail it.
Meaning: to repay some money or a loan or a favor to someone Examples: If you lend me the money, I’ll pay you back by Friday. He did me a big favor last week, now I need to pay him back.
Meaning: to connect an electrical appliance by inserting a plug in a socket. Examples: I need to plug in my phone; it’s completely out of juice. I thought the lamp was not working, but I just needed to plug it in.
Meaning: to tear something into small pieces so as to destroy it Examples: She ripped up her pile of old letters and put them in the bin. I hate this contract, it is a bad deal, I want to rip it up.
Meaning: to remove something violently or suddenly Examples: He tore out the pages that he didn’t want anyone to read. We are going to redo the whole bathroom, but first we need to tear the old one out.
Meaning: to begin to suffer from an illness Examples: Oh, god! I think I’m coming down with flu. I might not go to work tomorrow. Be careful around him, he has a cold. You don't want to come down with it.
Meaning: to have an argument and stop being friends Examples: They were flatmates for two years, but then they fell out and never spoke to each other again. My best friend and I fell out over this issue, I don't know if we'll ever speak again.
Meaning: to try to find something or somebody Examples: Jack was looking for his phone everywhere, but couldn’t find it. I looked for my father everywhere. I finally found him outside in the garden.
Meaning: to make or become hot or warm Examples: I think we can heat up yesterday’s pizza and have it for dinner, right? The coffee should be fine once it heats back up.
Meaning: to reheat something Examples: My coffee is cold now, I need to warm it up. I am cold from playing in the snow, now I want to sit by the fire and warm myself up.
Meaning: to wash your hands before eating or after doing dirty work Examples: My mom tells me to wash up before every meal. I just finished working on my car, I need to wash up before going in the house.
Meaning: to stop working, to stop functioning. Examples: My TV seems to be breaking down a lot, I think something is wrong with it. It's an old car, it probably breaks down all the time.
Meaning: to hang from a clothes line Examples: I don’t mind ironing, but I hate hanging the clothes out to dry. After you wash the laundry, you should hang the clothes out.
Meaning: to take a complex thing apart into smaller pieces Examples: If you have a complex problem, try breaking it down and solving the smaller pieces. I like the way she analyzes that song, breaking it down into single parts.
Meaning: to end a romantic relationship with somebody Examples: After they broke up, he listened to sad music and didn’t leave his house. You annoy me and you smell bad. I am breaking up with you.
Meaning: to choose something and then pursue it Examples: I usually eat the steak, but today I am going to go for the fish. He asked me if he should apply for the top universities, and I told him yes, go for it.
Meaning: to calm down and relax Examples: At the end of the day, I just want to put my feet up and chill out before going to bed. Chill out, man, it's not a big deal!
Meaning: to reply defiantly or disrespectfully Examples: My child talks back to me when I give him an order. That teacher lets his students talk back to him, I don't think that is right.
Meaning: to take care of somebody or something Examples: My parents will look after my dog when I'm on vacation. My friend is alone here. Can you look after him when I am away?
Meaning: to replace something Examples: Please put the book back on the shelf after you read it. I'm just going to borrow this shirt today, I will put it back tomorrow.
Meaning: to finish one’s supply of something Examples: We ran out of eggs, can you go to the store and buy some more? If we continue using paper towels like this, we will run out tomorrow.
Meaning: to fall lightly asleep Examples: I don’t take a real nap after lunch, I simply doze off for a bit in front of the TV. The meeting was really long and boring, so I dozed off for a while.
Meaning: to end a telephone call, especially abruptly or quickly Examples: When I told her the bad news, she hung up on me. I got angry during the call, so I hung up on him.
Meaning: to talk more loudly, or to express an opinion when you are usually quiet Examples: Could you speak up, please? The music is really loud, and I can’t hear you clearly. He usually sits in the corner silently, but today he spoke up, so we know what he...
Meaning: to answer a telephone call Examples: I kept calling her but she wouldn’t pick up, so I couldn’t tell her the news. When I call my mother, she always picks up on the first ring.
Meaning: to quickly consume the rest of a drink Examples: She drank up what was left of her beer and left in a hurry. He told me to drink up because there wouldn't be more water, we are going to the desert today.
Meaning: to expel or remove someone Examples: They kicked me out of the club after the fight. I was really messy and got kicked out of the hotel, they won't let me back.
Meaning: to adjust one’s position to make room for someone else Examples: Could you guys move over so I can sit down too? He asked me to move the couch over so he could insert another chair, but I don't want the chair there.
Meaning: to enter a room, building, or other place Examples: Please, come in and sit down. I wanted to come in the living room, but she was busy cleaning and wouldn't let me in.
Meaning: to admit someone to, or to allow someone into, a room, building, or area Examples: We let our dog in the house every morning, he prefers to eat breakfast in the kitchen. My boss is angry at me. I tried to go into his office, but he won't let me in.
Meaning: to engage in heavy physical exercise Examples: I try to work out three or four times a week at the gym, it's good for my health. I like to run in the forest. My brother calls it "working out," but I just call it "having fun."
Meaning: to prepare for exercise by moving or practising gently Examples: I always warm up thoroughly before going out for a jog. Before you lift heavy weights, be sure to warm up so your body is ready.
Meaning: to remove clothing or items in general from one’s or another’s body, or from an object Examples: I took off my shoes and lay down on the sofa. I would like to use the new cooking pan, but first I need to take off the price tag.
Meaning: to start a device, to start the operation of something by means of a tap, switch, or button. Examples: Please switch on the light, I can't see. When I try to switch on my phone, nothing happens. I think it's broken.
Meaning: to bring order to, to arrange neatly, especially in a quick action before a meeting or before a guest arrives Examples: The kids don’t like tidying up their room, but they always do it when I ask them to. The guests arrive in a few minutes, I need to tidy up...
Meaning: to put on smart, nice, good-looking, or formal clothes Examples: I only dress up on special occasions, like weddings or other celebrations. The interview was very important, so I dressed up in my best clothes.
Meaning: to place a piece of clothing (like a shirt), jewelery, etc. on part of one’s body Examples: I put on my watch when I got dressed this morning. When I got out of the shower, I put my clothes on.
Meaning: To rise, or cause someone to rise, from bed after sleeping Examples: I get up immediately after waking up each morning. We got him up early, because he had to go to the airport.
Meaning: to stop sleeping, or to cause someone to stop sleeping Examples: I woke up at 7 o’clock yesterday. The loud party woke me up during the night.
Meaning: to begin to sound (usually said about an alarm) Examples: My alarm clock goes off at 6am, and then I begin my workout. During the fire, the alarm went off. It was really loud.
Meaning: to happily expect something that is happening in the future Examples: He had worked hard and was looking forward to his retirement. We look forward to your visit next week.
Meaning: to not do something, or to not tell someone something Examples: I couldn’t keep from eating all the food at the party. I think he's not telling me the whole story, I think he's keeping something from me.
Meaning: to delay something or to rob something Examples: I’m sorry, I am late but I was held up in a meeting. The bank was held up by the two criminals.
Meaning: to experience something or meet somebody unexpectedly Examples: I’ve run into a problem with the project. I ran into him on the street yesterday.
Meaning: to watch something happen without taking part in it Examples: Look on the bright side – no one was badly hurt. You go speak to the group. I will just stand in the corner and look on.
Meaning: to respond to something or to resume doing something Examples: I will get back to you tomorrow. (I will respond to you tomorrow.) That was a good meeting, but now I need to get back to work.
Meaning: to wake up and get out of bed, or to stand up (like from a chair) Examples: Matt gets up at 5am. (Matt wakes up and gets out bed at 5am) I need to get up from this chair. (I need to stand up)
To examine or inspect something or someone. Examples: Can you look over this email and tell me what you think? He looked over my application and said it looked fine.
Definition: To become less strong or less intense. Examples: When the rain lets up, let's go outside for a walk. A good coach never lets up on pushing her athletes to excellence.
Meaning: to oppose somebody or something, usually, but not always, in an election Examples: Luck was really running against you yesterday! Biden ran against Trump in the 2020 US election.