You probably use phrasal verbs, or verbs made of two to three words, every day and don’t even realize it. Phrasal verbs can’t be translated literally, so you have to learn them by definitions and examples. A complete phrasal verb list in English would include hundreds of phrasal verbs, but these examples can help you understand this part of speech.
Learn some of the most common phrasal verbs with an alphabetical list.
Definitions and sample sentences can help you understand these phrasal verbs that start with the letters A-H.
to ask someone on a date
I got asked out by John.
to move backwards
Back up before she splashes you.
to appear or seem
If you frown, you’ll come off as mean.
cut it out
stop doing what you’re doing
You better cut it out before I get really angry.
Try not to doze off during my lecture.
to stop for a short visit
Feel free to drop in any time.
eat all of something
You better eat up those vegetables.
If she dies, my whole world will fall apart.
waste time doing pointless things
Stop farting around and finish your homework.
provide details about something
I’ll fill you in on the way to the hospital.
get back at
get revenge on someone
I’ll get back at him for breaking my TV.
to reveal some information
Try not to give away the end of the movie.
donate time or money to a charitable cause
I pick up garbage as a way to give back to my community.
to reluctantly stop fighting
I always give in to my son’s whining.
to stop working from over-exertion
My legs might give out after this run.
Don’t give up on your dream.
casually spend time with someone
Let’s hang out after school.
to rob someone by threatening violence
This is a hold up, give me all your money!
Verbs like “look” and “make” are often used in phrasal verbs.
to figure out the details
Let’s iron out this contract.
to make something more exciting
I’m going to jazz up my outfit with red jewelry.
keep it down
to be quieter
Keep it down outside. We’re trying to sleep in here.
to take effect as in a drug
When my ibuprofen kicks in, this headache will be gone.
to pretend something doesn’t bother you
You can’t laugh off a broken heart.
You really let me down when you lied.
look down on
to think less of
He’ll look down on me if I quit college.
I’ll look into the crime.
to kiss heavily
I want to make out with you.
to forgive each other
Let’s make up, this fight is dumb.
You better own up to your mistakes.
She passed away yesterday.
to make someone aware
He points out every little mistake.
I know you’ll pull through this illness.
That bully put me down every day.
One of the verbs that makes many phrasal verbs is “take.”
to list information quickly off the top of your head
I could rattle off all 50 states in one minute.
to see someone you know
I ran into Jan at the market.
to barely manage to accomplish something
You scraped by with a D in English this year.
He set me up to take the fall.
to support or represent something
I stand for gender equality.
to visit someone quickly
I’ll stop over after lunch.
to go with someone, especially when not invited
Can I tag along with you guys?
to resemble someone
I take after my grandma.
to start to go
Planes take off on the hour.
take up on
to accept an invitation
I’ll take you up on that dinner date this weekend.
to relax and do nothing
I’m going to veg out this weekend.
warm up to
to start liking over time
She’ll warm up to you by the end of the party.
to fall or crash
He wiped out on his new bike.
I work out every morning.
allow your mind to go blank
When my mom talks about chores I zone out.
A phrasal verb is simply a verb made up of more than one word, a type of compound verb. It is two or three words that make up one main verb. A phrasal verb is only a verb, not anything else in the sentence.
Usually, the words that constitute a phrasal verb are a verb and a preposition, but that is not always the case. Sometimes, the first word in a phrasal verb is not a verb at all, but when paired with the preposition, the whole phrase becomes a verb.
For example, the phrasal verb "clam up" is made of a noun (clam) and a preposition (up). When you combine them, they become one verb meaning "to become quiet or refuse to speak."
A phrasal verb is different from a verb phrase. A verb phrase, sometimes called a predicate, is made up of a main verb along with any complements, objects, or adverbial phrases that follow it.
So, how do you know when you're dealing with a phrasal verb and not just a verb and a preposition? You have to look at the whole sentence.
If the two words can be understood literally, it's a verb and a preposition. If they have to be taken together with a meaning that has little or nothing to do with the meaning of the verb alone, then it's a phrasal verb.
Let’s use “went out” to explain how to recognize phrasal verbs.
- I went out of the room for a moment.
Here, the words in the phrase "went out" literally mean "went" and "out." This is a verb (went) and a preposition (out).
- I went out with him a few times.
Here, the phrase "went out" is a phrasal verb meaning "spent time romantically." It doesn't necessarily indicate that you went anywhere.