english phrasal verbs

210+ Most Common English Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are when we combine a verb with a preposition of another grammatical element, and end up with a completely new meaning.

They’re used constantly by native speakers in spoken and written English, which makes them important to know.

In this English phrasal verbs list, we’ll show you 210+ of the most common phrasal verbs, with audio and example sentences included.

Afterwards, you’ll find a complete lesson on what phrasal verbs are, how to form them and how to learn them effectively.

Before we jump into the list, here’s a quick video explanation: 


The Most Common English Phrasal Verbs

To start off, we’ll be going over the top English phrasal verbs that you’ll hear in everyday situations. You can get a taster with this video, which features 15 useful English phrasal verbs (plus example sentences):  

Here’s a more detailed list of common English phrasal verbs, but right before the list, there’s two things you need to know about phrasal verbs in English:

  • They can be separable or inseparable
  • They can be transitive or intransitive (like all verbs in English)

I’ll go over these concepts more just after these handy lists!

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Separable, Transitive Phrasal Verbs

1. Pay back — To give someone back money that you owe

Thanks for getting me lunch when I forgot my wallet at home! I’ll pay you back tomorrow.

2. Give out (1) — To hand out or distribute something

He has a lot of contacts because he gives out his business card to everyone he meets.

3. Look up — To check the meaning of something

If you don’t know the meaning of a word, you should look it up in the dictionary.

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4. Give up — To stop trying, surrender

After two weeks of trying to build my own table, I gave up and just bought one.

5. Give away — To hand things out for free

When Linda’s cat had kittens, she gave them all away to good homes.

6. Hold back — To stop yourself from doing or saying something

Amy has a great voice, but whenever she’s singing in public, she feels shy and holds back.

7. Drop off — To take someone or something somewhere and leave them/it there

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Can you drop me off at the grocery store on your way home?

8. Work (something) out — To come up with a solution or a compromise

Don’t worry, I’m sure we can work something out so that everyone is happy.

9. Drop in — To visit someone without making an appointment

Drop in to my office anytime.

10. Check out — To see or try something out to learn more about it

Check out my new car!

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11. Take out (1) — To remove something, like from a pocket or a bag

The children sat at their desks and took out their pens and paper.

12. Take out (2) — To take someone on a date

He took her out to the most expensive restaurant in the city.

13. Turn on / Turn off — To switch a machine or light on or off

Turn off the light, I’m trying to sleep!

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14. Cheer on — To support someone through words of encouragement

Even though Samantha was in last place, her brother cheered her on through the entire race.

15. Fill in (for someone) — To do someone else’s job temporarily

Can you fill in for me while I’m on vacation?

16. Put out (1) — To extinguish a fire.

The firefighters managed to put out the fire before it spread to other houses.

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17. Put out (2) — To irritate someone by asking them for a favor

I’d ask you to make me dinner but I don’t want to put you out.

18. Put on — To get your clothes or makeup on

Every morning she puts on her dress, lipstick, shoes and hat—in that order.

19. Take off (1) — To remove clothing

She was very happy when she finally got home and took off her shoes. They had been hurting her feet all day!

20. Fill out — To complete a form by providing required information

Please fill out the application form and submit it by Friday.

21. Cheer up — To show support to someone who seems sad or to try to make someone happier

Andrew was having a bad day, so his girlfriend cheered him up by taking him out for ice cream.

22. Cut off — To interrupt or stop something

His father is rich but he cut him off without any money of his own.

23. Cut (it) out — To stop it

Hey, cut it out! I was watching that movie, so stop changing the channel!

24. Call off — To cancel something

We had to call off the picnic because of the rain.

25. Bring up — To mention something

Mark was sick and had to miss the party, so please don’t bring it up, I don’t want him to feel bad for missing it.

26. Bring on — To cause something to happen, usually something negative

His lung cancer was brought on by years of smoking.

27. Bring it on! — To accept a challenge with confidence

You want to have a race? Bring it on! I can beat you!

Inseparable, Transitive Phrasal Verbs

28. Call on (1) — To visit someone

I’ll call on you this evening to see how you’re feeling.

29. Warm up to — To start liking someone or something more as you spend more time with them

The new puppy was scared of my husband when we first got him, but he warmed up to him pretty quickly.

30. Come across — To meet or find by chance

I was cleaning the attic and I came across my high school uniform. Can you believe it still fits?

31. Get back at — To get revenge on someone

Her ex-husband took her house so she got back at him by taking his dogs.

32. Go out with — To go on a date with someone

Sarah was so happy when Peter finally asked her to go out with him!

33. Log in — To sign in to your account on a website or computer

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34. Pay for — To give someone money for a particular purpose

She used her credit card to pay for the hotel reservation. 

35. Pay for — To suffer because of something you did.

He’ll pay for all the problems he caused me by being late today!

36. Fall for (someone) — To fall in love with someone

He fell for her the moment he saw her.

37. Cut in — To interrupt a conversation or activity

The teacher cut him in and asked him to explain the answer to the class.

38. Call on (2) — To use someone’s or something’s knowledge

I may need to call on the university’s excellent professors in order to answer your question.

39. Come up (with something) — To think of an idea

I came up with this idea for a TV show about a woman living with her best friend and daughter. I call it ‘Two and a Half Women.’

Inseparable, Intransitive Phrasal Verbs

40. Drop out — To quit or stop participating in something

She was a straight-A student, but she dropped out of college to pursue her dream of becoming an artist.

41. Log out / Log off — To sign out of your account

You should always log out of your accounts when you use a public computer.

42. Look out — To watch out for something

Look out, there’s a baseball coming your way!

43. Come up (1) — To bring up a topic

I wanted to tell her that I got a new job but the chance never came up.

44. Come up (2) — When something happens unexpectedly

I was going to meet my friends for dinner, but something came up so I had to cancel.

45. Come in — To enter

Come in, the door is open!’ said the grandmother to the wolf.

46. Come forward — To volunteer information about something, like a crime

The police are encouraging people to come forward with any information about the kidnapped girl.

47. Check in — To register at a hotel for a stay

We haven’t checked in at the hotel yet.

I was in the neighborhood, so I decided to drop in on my sister and see how she was doing.

48. End up — To eventually be in a particular place or situation

After driving around for hours, we finally ended up at the beach.

49. Fall apart — To stop working or break into pieces

The old chair fell apart when I sat on it.

50. Fall down — To collapse or fall to the ground

The little girl tripped and fell down the stairs.

51. Fall off — To decline in quality or quantity

Sales fell off during the holiday season.

52. Give out (2) — To break down or stop working

The city had to rebuild the bridge completely because it was about to give out and fall down.

53. Go ahead — To go in front of someone, or to give permission

You can go ahead and start the meeting without me.

54. Grow up — To tell someone to stop acting childish

Some people tell Steve he needs to grow up, but he loves acting like a child.

55. Grow apart — To get distant from someone, like a friend

When my friend moved to a different country, I tried to stay close with her, but we slowly grew apart.

56. Hang on — To keep something

When everyone else was getting fired, Paul managed to hang on to his job.

57. Hang out — To spend time with someone, casually

My friends and I used to hang out in the park after school.

58. Hang up — To end a phone call, especially if before the other person is ready

I was in the middle of a sentence, and he hung up on me! How rude.

59. Hold on (1) — To hold something tightly

You’d better hold on to your hat; it’s windy out there!

60. Hold on (2) — To ask someone to wait for a moment

Hold on, I’ll be right back. 

61. Give in — To surrender, especially in a fight or argument

Ben’s mother gave in and let him stay out late with his friends.

62. Take off (2) — To leave for a journey

The plane will take off in a few minutes. 

63. Turn around — To move so you’re facing the opposite direction

Sally was about to get on the plane, but she turned around when someone called her name.

64. Turn up — When something that was lost is found unexpectedly

Anything I lose usually turns up under the couch. It’s my cat’s favorite hiding place.

65. Work out — To exercise

I try to work out every morning, by repeatedly lifting a heavy donut to my mouth.

More Useful English Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal VerbMeaningExample Type
Act out To perform a role or behaviorThe students acted out a scene from the play.Separable, transitive
Act up To behave inappropriately or malfunctionThe computer started to act up and froze.Inseparable, intransitive
Ask for To request or invite someone to do somethingI'm going to ask for help with this difficult task.Inseparable, transitive
Back up To support or assist someone or somethingCan you back up your claims with evidence?Separable, transitive
To reverse or move backwardCould you back up the car so I can park?Separable, transitive / intransitive
Be cut out for To be suited or suited for a particular role or occupationShe is definitely cut out for a career in medicine.Inseparable, transitive
Blow up To explode or burst into piecesThe fireworks will blow up in the sky tonight.Inseparable, intransitive
To lose one's temper or become angryHe blew up at his colleague during the meeting.Inseparable, intransitive
Break away To escape or separate from a group or organizationThe rebel group managed to break away from their captors.Inseparable, intransitive
Break in To enter a building or place forcibly or illegallyThe thief attempted to break in to the house.Inseparable, intransitive
Break off To end a relationship or conversation abruptlyThey decided to break off their engagement.Separable, transitive
Break out To escape or start suddenly and violentlyA riot broke out in the city center.Inseparable, intransitive
Break through To overcome an obstacle or make a significant achievementThey managed to break through the language barrier.Inseparable, transitive / intransitive
Bring along To bring someone or something with youDon't forget to bring along your passport.Separable, transitive
Bring in To introduce or earn a certain amount of moneyThe company hopes to bring in new customers with the marketing campaign.Separable, transitive
Brush off To dismiss or ignore someone or something casuallyHe brushed off my suggestion and continued with his plan.Separable, transitive
Build on To develop or expand on something already existingWe need to build on the success of our previous project.Inseparable, transitive
Call for To require or demand somethingThis situation calls for immediate action.Inseparable, transitive
Call in To request someone's presence or servicesThe expert was called in to investigate the crime scene.Separable, transitive
Call out To shout or say something loudly and clearlyThe teacher called out the answer to the question.Separable, transitive
Call up To make a telephone callI'll call up the restaurant and make a reservation.Separable, transitive
Carried away To become overly excited or emotional in a situationShe got carried away and spent all her savings on the shopping spree.Inseparable, intransitive
Carry on To continue or proceed with an activity or actionWe should carry on with our plans despite the challenges.Inseparable, intransitive
Carry out To complete or perform a task or actionWe need to carry out a thorough investigation.Separable, transitive
Catch on To understand or grasp something, usually quicklyThe students caught on to the new concept.Inseparable, intransitive
Check off To mark or indicate that something has been completed or verifiedI'll check off the items on the list as we go.Separable, transitive
Check over To review or examine something carefullyPlease check over the document for any errors.Separable, transitive
Check up (on) To verify or investigate the condition or progress of somethingThe doctor wants to check up on your recovery.Inseparable, transitive
Clean out To empty or remove the contents of somethingI need to clean out the garage and get rid of old items.Separable, transitive
Clean up To tidy or make something clean and neatThey need to clean up the room before the guests arrive.Separable, transitive
Come about To happen or occurI'm not sure how it came about, but I'm glad it did.Inseparable, intransitive
Come along To make progress or improveHow is your project coming along?Inseparable, intransitive
To accompany or join someoneWill you come along to the party with me?Inseparable, intransitive
Come back To return to a place or situationHe promised to come back and visit us next year.Inseparable, intransitive
Come by To obtain or acquire somethingI managed to come by some concert tickets for tonight.Inseparable, intransitive
Come down To move from a higher to a lower positionThe elevator malfunctioned, so we had to come down the stairs.Inseparable, intransitive
Come down on To criticize or reprimand someone heavilyThe boss came down on him for consistently being late to work.Inseparable, transitive
Come down with To become ill with a particular illness or conditionShe came down with the flu and had to stay home from work.Inseparable, transitive
Come forward To offer oneself for a task, position, or helpIf anyone has any information, please come forward and speak to the authorities.Inseparable, intransitive
Come in To enter a placePlease knock before you come in.Inseparable, intransitive
Come off To succeed or be accomplishedThe party last night came off really well.Inseparable, intransitive
To detach or be removed from somethingHe tried to open the jar, but the lid wouldn't come off.Inseparable, intransitive
Come on To encourage or urge someoneCome on, you can do it!Inseparable, intransitive
Come out To be revealed or made publicThe truth finally came out after years of speculation.Inseparable, intransitive
Come over To visit someone's placeWhy don't you come over to my house this weekend?Inseparable, intransitive
Come up To arise or occurA sudden opportunity came up and I couldn't pass it up.Inseparable, intransitive
Come up with To produce or provide something, especially an idea or solutionWe need to come up with a plan to solve this problem.Inseparable, transitive
Count on To rely on or trust someone or somethingYou can always count on me for support.Inseparable, transitive
Cut down (on) To reduce the amount or quantity of somethingI'm trying to cut down on caffeine.Inseparable, transitive
Deal with To handle or manage a situation or problemWe need to deal with this issue immediately.Inseparable, transitive
Do away with To eliminate or get rid of somethingLet's do away with unnecessary paperwork.Inseparable, transitive
Do up To fasten or decorate somethingShe did up her hair and put on a beautiful dress for the party.Inseparable, transitive
Dress up To wear formal or fancy clothing for a special occasionWe should dress up for the wedding.Separable, transitive
Eat up To consume all the foodHe ate up his entire meal in just a few minutes.Inseparable, transitive
Fall back (on) To rely on something as a last resort or backupIf I can't find a job, I might fall back on my savings.Inseparable, transitive
Fall in To collapse inward or form a line or formationThe old building finally fell in after years of neglect.Inseparable, intransitive
Fall out To have a disagreement or argumentThey fell out over a trivial issue and stopped speaking to each other.Inseparable, intransitive
To unintentionally drop an objectHer credit card fell out of her pocket.Inseparable, intransitive
Fall through To fail to happen or be completed as plannedOur plans to go on a trip fell through due to bad weather.Inseparable, intransitive
Figure out To understand or solve somethingShe finally figured out the solution to the puzzle.Separable, transitive
Find out To discover or obtain informationI need to find out what time the meeting starts.Separable, transitive / intransitive
Get along (with) To have a harmonious relationship or rapport with someoneShe gets along with her coworkers very well.Inseparable, transitive / intransitive
Get away To escape or go on a vacationLet's get away from the city and relax at the beach.Inseparable, intransitive
Get by To manage or survive with the available resources or incomeThey can get by with their current budget.Inseparable, intransitive
Get in To enter or arrive at a placeHe needs to get in before the meeting starts.Inseparable, intransitive
Get off To leave or disembark from a vehicle or transportationPlease get off the bus at the next stop.Inseparable, transitive / intransitive
Get on To make progress or continueHe needs to get on with his work.Inseparable, transitive / intransitive
Get on with To have a good relationship or get along with someoneI get on with my coworkers.Inseparable, transitive
Get out To leave or to remove somethingWe need to get out of this dangerous situation.Separable, transitive / intransitive
Get over To recover from an illness or emotional distressIt took her a long time to get over the loss of her pet.Inseparable, transitive
Get through To finish or completeI have a lot of work to get through today.Inseparable, transitive / intransitive
Give off To emit or produceThe flowers give off a pleasant fragrance.Inseparable, transitive
Go away To leave or departCan you please go away and leave me alone?Inseparable, intransitive
Go back To return to a previous location or timeWe go back to visit our hometown every summer.Inseparable, intransitive
Go by To pass or elapseTime goes by so quickly when you're having fun.Inseparable, intransitive
Go on To continue or proceedPlease go on with your presentation.Inseparable, intransitive
Go out To leave one's place of residence or to socialize for entertainmentLet's go out for dinner tonight.Inseparable, intransitive
Go through To experience or endureShe had to go through a lot of difficulties to achieve her goals.Inseparable, transitive
Go with To match or be suitable forThe red shoes go with my dress perfectly.Separable, transitive
Hand out To distribute or giveThe teacher hands out worksheets to the students.Inseparable, intransitive
Hang about To linger or wait aroundHe likes to hang about in the park after school.Inseparable, intransitive
Hang around To spend time in a place without any specific purposeWe used to hang around the mall when we were teenagers.Inseparable, intransitive
Hold on To wait or remain on the linePlease hold on while I transfer your call.Inseparable, intransitive
Keep in To retain or maintain something within a confined space or boundary
He always keeps in his emotions and rarely shows them.Separable, Transitive
Keep on To continue doing somethingDon't give up, just keep on trying.Separable, transitive
Keep up (with) To maintain the same pace or level asIt's hard to keep up with the latest technological advancements.Separable, transitive / intransitive
Knock down To demolish or destroyThey plan to knock down the old building and construct a new one.Separable, transitive
Lay off To terminate someone's employmentThe company had to lay off several employees due to financial problems.Separable, transitive
Leave out To omit or excludeShe accidentally left out an important detail in her report.Separable, transitive
Let down To disappoint or fail someoneHe promised to help, but he let us down when he didn't show up.
Separable, transitive
Let in To allow someone to enterPlease let me in the room; I forgot my key.Separable, transitive
Let off To release or excuse from a punishmentThe police officer decided to let him off with a warning.Separable, transitive
Look after To take care of or watch overShe needs to look after her younger siblings while their parents are away.Inseparable, transitive
Look down on To view with contempt or consider inferiorShe looks down on people who don't have a college education.Inseparable, transitive
Look forward (to) To anticipate or be excited aboutI'm really looking forward to our vacation next month.Inseparable, transitive
Look into To investigate or examineThe authorities will look into the matter and take appropriate action.Inseparable, transitive
Look out for To watch or be vigilant for something or someoneLook out for any signs of danger.Inseparable, transitive
Look up to To admire or respect someoneI look up to my older sister for her achievements.Inseparable, transitive
Make out To understand or see something unclear or distantI can't make out the words on the sign from here.Separable, transitive
To engage in passionate kissingThey were caught making out in the park.Inseparable, intransitive
Make up To invent or create a story or excuseHe made up a silly excuse for being late.Separable, transitive
To reconcile or restore a friendly relationshipAfter their argument, they decided to make up and be friends again.Inseparable, intransitive
Mix up To confuse or mistake something or someoneShe always mixes up our names.Separable, transitive
Pass away To dieHer grandfather passed away last night.Inseparable, intransitive
Pass on To transmit or convey somethingPlease pass on the message to the team.Separable, transitive
Pass out To faint or lose consciousness temporarilyHe felt dizzy and passed out during the presentation.Inseparable, intransitive
Pass up To miss or decline an opportunityDon't pass up the chance to travel the world.Separable, transitive
Pay off To result in success or bring a positive outcomeAll his hard work paid off when he won the competition.Inseparable, intransitive
To give someone the money owed, usually to settle a debt.He finally paid off his debts and became debt-free.Separable, transitive
Pick out To choose or select somethingShe picked out a beautiful dress for the party.Separable, transitive
Pick up To collect or gather something or someoneCan you pick up some groceries on your way home?Separable, transitive
Point out To indicate or draw attention to something or someoneHe pointed out the mistake in the report.Separable, transitive
Pull off To succeed in achieving something difficult or impressiveShe pulled off a flawless performance on stage.Separable, transitive
Put forward To propose or suggest somethingHe put forward a new idea for the project.Separable, transitive
Put off To postpone or delay somethingWe had to put off the meeting until next week.Separable, transitive
Put up (with) To tolerate or endure somethingShe had to put up with his constant complaining.Inseparable, transitive
To assemble or displayThey put up their artwork for the gallery show.
Separable, transitive
Run away To escape or flee from a place or situationThe child decided to run away from home.Inseparable, intransitive
Run into To meet or encounter someone by chanceI ran into an old friend at the grocery store.Inseparable, transitive
Run off To leave quickly or suddenlyHe ran off without saying goodbye.Inseparable, intransitive
Run out (of) To use up or exhaust the supply of somethingWe ran out of milk, so I need to go to the store.Inseparable, transitive / intransitive
Set off To start a journey or tripWe set off early in the morning to avoid traffic.Inseparable, intransitive
To trigger or initiate something, such as a series of eventsHer comments set off a heated debate among the panelists.Inseparable, transitive
Set up To establish or arrange somethingThey set up a new business together.Separable, transitive / intransitive
Settle down To calm down or become established in a stable lifeAfter traveling for years, she decided to settle down in a small town.Inseparable, intransitive
Settle in To become accustomed or get comfortable in a new placeIt took some time for them to settle in their new home.Inseparable, transitive / intransitive
Settle up To pay a debt or resolve financial mattersThey need to settle up the bill before leaving the restaurant.Inseparable, transitive
Show off To display or demonstrate one's skills or possessionsHe loves to show off his new car to everyone.Separable, transitive / intransitive
Show up To arrive or appear, especially unexpectedly or at a specified timeShe showed up at the party wearing a stunning dress.Inseparable, intransitive
Shut down To close or stop the operation of a business or systemThe company decided to shut down its manufacturing plant.Separable, transitive / intransitive
To dismiss or reject an idea, proposal, or argumentThe team leader immediately shut down his suggestion.Separable, transitive
Sit down To take a seat or position oneself comfortablyLet's sit down and discuss the details of the project.Inseparable, intransitive
Stand out To be noticeably different or exceptionalHer talent stands out among the other contestants.Inseparable, intransitive
Stand up (to) To confront or resist someone or somethingHe decided to stand up to the bully.Inseparable, transitive
Stick around To remain or stay in a place or situationCan you stick around until I finish this task?Inseparable, intransitive
Take after To resemble or have similar traits as someoneShe takes after her mother in terms of looks and personality.Inseparable, transitive
Take apart To disassemble or dismantle somethingWe need to take apart the furniture before moving it.Separable, transitive
Take back To retract or withdraw a statement or offerI want to take back what I said earlier.Separable, transitive
To return something to its original location or ownerCould you please take back this book to the library?Separable, transitive
Take down To write or record somethingPlease take down the important points of the meeting.Separable, transitive
Take in To understand or comprehend somethingI couldn't take in all the information at once.Separable, transitive
Take on To undertake or accept a responsibility or challengeHe decided to take on the project despite the difficulties.Separable, transitive
Take over To assume control or become dominantThe new manager will take over the department next week.Inseparable, transitive
Take up To start or begin a hobby, activity, or occupationI want to take up playing the piano.Separable, transitive
Talk over To discuss or consider something with othersLet's talk over the details of the project.Separable, transitive
Think over To consider or reflect on somethingI need some time to think over your proposal.Separable, transitive
Throw away To discard or get rid of somethingShe decided to throw away the old magazines.Separable, transitive
Try for To attempt to achieve or obtain somethingHe will try for a promotion at work.Inseparable, transitive
Try on To test or experiment with wearing somethingShe wants to try on the dress before buying it.Separable, transitive
Try out To test or evaluate somethingThey decided to try out the new software.Separable, transitive
Turn down To reject or refuse an offer or requestShe turned down the job offer because of the low salary. Separable, transitive
Use up To deplete or exhaust the supply or quantity of somethingWe used up all the printer ink.Inseparable, transitive
Wake up To stop sleeping and become consciousI usually wake up early in the morning.Inseparable, intransitive
Walk away To leave or abandon a situation or relationshipHe decided to walk away from the argument.Inseparable, intransitive
Walk out To leave suddenly or in protestThe audience walked out during the boring performance.Inseparable, intransitive
Watch out To be cautious or vigilantWatch out for the step, it's slippery.Inseparable, intransitive
Wear off To gradually fade or disappearThe effects of the medication will wear off in a few hours.Inseparable, intransitive
Work off To eliminate or reduce through physical activity or effortI need to work off the extra calories I consumed.Separable, transitive
Work up To develop or generate a particular feeling or stateI'm trying to work up the courage to ask her out.Separable, transitive
Write down To record or write something on paperPlease write down the important details.Separable, transitive
Write off To consider something as a loss or failureThey had to write off the damaged goods.Separable, transitive
Write up To write a report, summary, or account of somethingI need to write up the meeting minutes.Separable, transitive
Zip up To fasten or close a zipperShe forgot to zip up her jacket before going outside.Separable, transitive

What Is a Phrasal Verb?

As you’ve probably figured out from the lists above, a phrasal verb is a phrase that’s made up of a verb and another word or two—usually a preposition but sometimes an adverb. The same verb can be used in several phrasal verbs, such as give in, give away and give up, but the meaning will be different. 

There are also phrasal verbs that you’re more likely to say with friends (hang outcut it out), while others are pretty common at work emails and meetings:  

To understand phrasal verbs, it’s important to know what verbs, prepositions and adverbs are.

  • A verb is an action word. It describes something happening (e.g. hearing, seeing), a state of being (e.g. to live, to sleep) or an action being done (e.g. to read, to sing).
  • A preposition describes the relationship between two words. For example, the bees are above the table or under the table, but not inside the table (hopefully). Prepositions mainly deal with location or direction (e.g. on, through, around) and time (e.g. “by” or “around” a certain time).
  • An adverb is a word that describes a verb. For example, you can run quickly or slowly and arrive to class early or late.

You put these words together to form phrasal verbs. 

It’s easier than you think. For example, you probably already know the phrase “come on”—that’s a phrasal verb!

The word “come,” on its own, means to move towards something. Together with the preposition “on,” though, the phrase “come on” becomes a phrase of encouragement.

If the idea of phrasal verbs still takes some getting used to, you can pick them up more naturally by watching English movies, TV clips or online videos and then trying to notice the phrasal verbs that come up. English shows make great material for this because they often use everyday language.

Sometimes it can be tricky to do on your own, though. As an English learning resource, FluentU makes this more approachable. 

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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Phrasal verbs are such an important part of English that you’ll hear them everywhere!

Types of Phrasal Verbs 

As mentioned above, phrasal verbs can be either transitive or intransitive and separable or inseparable. 


Transitive phrasal verbs have a direct object (a thing or person that’s being acted on).

For example, let’s take the phrasal verb “put on”:

She’ll put on some makeup before stepping on stage.

In this sentence, “some makeup” is the direct object. You can’t say “she’ll put on before stepping on stage” because with transitive verbs, there needs to be a direct object—what exactly is she putting on? 

Here are some other transitive phrasal verbs:

We’re already indoors, take off your hat. 

This is really tough, but the team’s confident that they can work out a solution. 

I’m ready for this challenge, bring it on!


On the other hand, intransitive phrasal verbs don’t have a direct object. You can just use them in a sentence as is:

          When I’ve had a really good nap, it’s hard to get up!

          My friends want to hang out at this interesting café that just opened.


Separable phrasal verbs are phrasal verbs that can be split up, with a word or phrase in the middle:

Since you weren’t at the party yesterday, I’ll fill you in on the funny things that happened.

He had to take his jacket off because he was sweating. 

One thing to remember is that separable phrasal verbs are always transitive—it’s the direct object that gets inserted into the middle of the phrase.

Usually, if the direct object is a noun, the word order is a bit more flexible. You can place it either inside the phrasal verb or simply add it afterwards: 

I’m going to turn my phone off because there’s no signal here in the mountains. 

I’m going to turn off my phone because there’s no signal here in the mountains.

There’s an exception to this, though. If the direct object is a pronoun (me, you, he, she, it, them), it would have to be inserted into the phrasal verb:

Correct: We brought a gift to cheer her up.

Incorrect: We brought a gift to cheer up her. 


With inseparable phrasal verbs, you can’t break them up! If there’s a direct object, it has to come after the phrasal verb, even if it’s a pronoun:

Correct: Can you stay nearby so we can call on you if an emergency happens? 

Incorrect: Can you stay nearby so we can call you on if an emergency happens? 

Inseparable phrasal verbs can be either transitive or intransitive:

She came across her old school photos and felt surprised about how different she looked back then. (Transitive)

As a teenager, he was excited to grow up and live in his own apartment. (Intransitive)

The catch is that there’s no definite way to tell whether a phrasal verb is separable or inseparable, so if you encounter a new phrasal verb, you’ll have to observe how it’s used! 

How to Use Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are used just like verbs—you can use them anywhere they make sense.

Word Order

First, you have to remember if a phrasal verb is separable or inseparable.

Inseparable verbs need to have the verb and preposition said together, like in the phrase fall down.

For separable verbs, though, you can also separate the verb and the preposition by putting other words in between them—both ways are correct. For example:

Turn off the TV

Turn the TV off


The verb part of the phrase should be changed depending on the tense and subject of the sentence. For example, take out can transform like this:

He took out his water bottle from his bag. (Past tense)

She takes out the trash every Thursday. (Present tense)

They often take out their dog for a walk in the park. (Present tense)

I’ll take out the boxes from the storage room tomorrow. (Future tense)

Here’s another example (call off):

They called off the meeting due to a scheduling conflict. (Past tense)

We’re calling off our plans to go hiking because it might rain. (Present continuous tense)

She will call off the event if not enough people RSVP. (Future tense)


How many of these English phrasal verbs did you already know? Phrasal verbs are everywhere! Don’t be afraid of how many there are—just start with a few at a time and soon you’ll be an expert.

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:


If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.


FluentU lets you learn engaging content with world famous celebrities.

For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:


FluentU lets you tap to look up any word.

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.


FluentU helps you learn fast with useful questions and multiple examples. Learn more.

The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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