You guessed it; as the name suggests, a phrasal verb is a type of verb that comes in phrases. Learning these different phrasal verbs improved my vocabulary and communication so I’m putting everything I know into this handy guide for you.
You’ll learn more about phrasal verbs and their different types as I explain. I also provided an extensive list of phrasal verbs with their definitions and sample sentences.
What are Phrasal Verbs?
Keep in mind the meaning of a phrasal verb is usually unrelated to the definition of the main verb. For example:
- We passed out two hours after the social event.
The phrasal verb in this sentence is passed out, which means become unconscious, sleep, or blackout. But the base verb, pass, takes on a different meaning. This single-word verb means to move or cause to move in a specified direction.
Here’s another example.
- The team members come up with the best project ideas at night.
The phrasal verb above is come up, meaning present itself. It’s different from the base verb, come, which means arrive.
English phrasal verbs can be confusing because their definitions are not explicit or painless to speculate. It takes memorization to understand the meaning of every phrasal verb.
Whether it’s a regular or irregular verb, remember that phrasal verbs act like normal verbs in sentences. They can express action while showing time. That means you can also conjugate them into every type of verb form and any verb tenses.
What are the Four Types of Phrasal Verbs?
Understanding phrasal verbs will help you master their placement and functions in sentences. Here are the four categories to remember.
Transitive Phrasal Verbs
A transitive phrasal verb acts like normal transitive verbs. A transitive verb always includes a direct object. For example:
- I will go over the phone book to look for his telephone number.
- We will get through this difficult time.
The phrasal verb in the first statement has a different meaning from the original verb, go. The phrase go over means to examine or look at something carefully. Its direct object is phone book because it is the receiver of the action.
In the second sentence, the phrasal verb is get through, meaning overcome. The receiver of the action is difficult time.
Here’s a list of transitive phrasal verbs you can use.
- Bring back.
- Call up.
- Cross off.
- Dig up.
- Dream up.
- Eat up.
- Fill up.
- Hold down.
- Leave out.
- Lift up.
- Mix up.
- Pass around.
- Pin up.
- Pay back.
- Read out.
- Switch off.
- Throw out.
- Try on.
- Wash out.
- Wipe out.
Intransitive Phrasal Verbs
This is a verb that doesn’t include a direct object. I remember that a direct object is a noun or pronoun that accepts the action. Take a look at the sentences containing intransitive phrasal verbs below.
- We need to catch up without mobile phones and other distractions.
- Please step aside for the cyclists.
In the first sentence, the verb catch up stands on its own without a direct object. The same is true with the second sentence. Step aside stands on its own without a noun or pronoun receiving the action.
Here are more examples of intransitive phrasal verbs.
- Back down.
- Carry on.
- Check up.
- Check out.
- Clear out.
- Came about.
- Come by.
- Come through
- Get ahead.
- Get up.
- Give up.
- Lie down.
- Pull in
- Run away.
- Run down.
- Sell out.
- Stand by. Turn in.
- Wait up.
- Work out.
Separable Phrasal Verbs
Separable phrasal verbs are transitive verbs where we can put the direct object between the words. For example, instead of saying, “pick up you,” we say, “pick you up.” Below are more sentence examples.
- Please don’t let me down.
- Marvin is planning to take Lily out on a date.
You can even put long groups of words or a noun phrase between separable phrasal verbs. For example:
- I know you would never let Hazel, Jason, and the rest of the organization down.
Remember that some separable phrasal verbs can still be placed together in a sentence. The sentences below are both correct.
- I will pick up the package today.
- I will pick the package up today.
It’s also important that not all transitive phrasal verbs can be separated. For example:
- Incorrect: Let’s go these pages over.
Correct: Let’s go over these pages.
There’s a special rule for pronouns regarding separable verbs. If the direct object is a pronoun, position it in the middle of a phrasal verb. For example:
- Incorrect: The men will pick up it later.
Correct: The men will pick it up later.
Here are some examples of separable phrasal verbs.
- Add up.
- Back up.
- Bring about.
- Bring over.
- Call up.
- Carry out.
- Chew up.
- Clear up.
- Fill up.
- Move over.
- Pass on.
- Point out.
- Quiet down.
- Rinse out.
- Run off.
- Shut off.
- Sweep out.
- Tear up.
- Wipe off.
Inseparable Phrasal Verbs
An inseparable phrasal verb is a phrasal verb that you should not split up. These phrasal verbs are always beside each other, whether there’s a direct object or not. Below is an example of an inseparable phrasal verb with a direct object.
- Incorrect: The mother wants to stick her principles to.
Correct: The mother wants to stick to her principles.
Here’s another example of an inseparable phrasal verb without a direct object. In other words, it’s also an intransitive phrasal verb.
- The orphan carried on with his life.
Some of the most common non-separable phrasal verbs in the English language are:
- Back out of.
- Bear on.
- Call for.
- Come along with.
- Check up on.
- Come by.
- Disagree with.
- Drop in at/on.
- Drop out of.
- Fall back on.
- Fall out with.
- Get away with.
- Look after.
- Pass on.
- Put up with.
- Run away with.
- See about.
- See to.
- Talk over.
- Turn into.
Rules for Using Phrasal Verbs
We have specific rules when using phrasal verbs. I laid them all out here for you to study.
Phrasal Verbs Have Different Definitions from the Main Verb
Combining a normal verb with a preposition or adverb gives it a different meaning from the original action verb. The sentences below will prove it.
- Justine came down with a cold and fever after playing in the rain for hours.
- I only came here to see the headmaster.
In the first sentence, the phrasal verb came down with is in its past form, meaning became sick. But in the second example, the verb came means arrived.
Below are more examples.
- Julia promised not to back down from the fight. (Back down means to withdraw, while back means to give support).
- Let’s get away for the weekend. (Get away means to escape, while get means to receive).
- You keep on messaging me. (Keep on means continue doing, while keep means have or retain possession of).
Phrasal Verbs Can Be Verbals
Since phrasal verbs are no different from ordinary verbs, they can also function as other parts of speech, such as a noun, adverb, or adjective. These are called verbals.
One type of verbal is a gerund, a verb in its present participle form acting as a noun. Here’s an example of the phrasal verb get over acting as a gerund.
- Getting over that incident was a traumatizing experience.
Another type of verbal is the infinitive. Here, the word to plus the base form of the verb act as a noun, adjective, or adverb in the sentence. For example:
- To get over a long-term ex-partner is challenging. (To get over as a noun)
- But I don’t want to get over him yet. (To get over as an adverb)
Phrasal verbs can also be participles. Participles are verb forms used as adjectives or parts of specific tenses. Below are examples of the present and past participle forms of get over in sentences.
- Jamie is still getting over her breakup. (present participle used in the present progressive tense)
- Having gotten over the accident, Jamie is now ready to walk on her feet again. (past participle is used in the present perfect tense)
Conjugating Phrasal Verbs
As the main verb of the entire sentence, we conjugate a phrasal verb by only changing the action verb. Then, you should leave the other words, such as the preposition or adverb.
For example, the present progressive form of look forward is is/are/am looking forward. The word forward remains the same.
- I’m looking forward to the charity event in three days time.
Here’s another set of sentence examples. The phrasal verb used is get up, where get is an irregular verb. That means it doesn’t follow the typical conjugation pattern for its simple past and past participle forms.
- Simple present tense: She gets up at 12 noon each day.
Simple past tense: She got up at 12 noon yesterday.
Simple future tense: She will get up at 12 noon tomorrow.
All Intransitive Phrasal Verbs are Inseparable
You already know that all separable phrasal verbs are transitive. However, not all transitive phrasal verbs are separable. However, all intransitive phrasal verbs are inseparable because they do not have a direct object. For example:
- My mother wakes up the earliest in our family.
- The competitive student wants to get ahead of everyone academically.
- The elderly couple keeps on coming back to their first home every summer.
All Three-Word Phrasal Verbs are Inseparable
Some phrasal verbs actually have more than one particle after the main verb. All these three-word phrasal verbs are inseparable. That means a direct object cannot come between them. Check out the sentences below.
- The finance department has to come up with a better plan for the 2023 budget.
- Teachers must be role models because the children look up to them.
- The stepmother and biological mother get along with each other.
All Three-Word Phrasal Verbs are Transitive
Three-word phrasal verbs end with prepositions, so there’s likely an object that will follow them. Some examples include come up with (something), look forward to (something), look up to (someone), and put up with (something.) Consider these sentences.
- Did you come up with this plan by yourself?
- I get along with him sometimes.
- I can’t put up with your poor manners anymore. You need to change it.
What is the Formula for Phrasal Verbs?
There are three possible formulas for producing phrasal verbs.
Verb + Adverb
The most basic structure of a phrasal verb is the main verb followed by an adverb. These can either be transitive or intransitive. Some examples include put off, turn down, and set off.
- I suggest you don’t put it off until tomorrow.
- I turned down his offer because he wouldn’t compromise.
- We should set off at 3 PM to miss the rush hour traffic.
In these sentences, off and down are adverbs instead of prepositions. That’s because the proceeding words are not objects of the prepositions.
Verb + Preposition
This type of phrasal verb is also known as a prepositional verb. Note that every preposition should have an object. For example:
- I believe in the theory of evolution.
In this sentence, believe in is the phrasal verb. The prepositional phrase is in the theory of evolution.
Other examples of prepositional verbs are look after and talk about. Here are some sentence examples.
- Please look after my daughter while I’m away.
- We talked about sociolinguistics, politics, and different economic systems the whole day.
This phrasal verb structure is inseparable. That means the direct object should not be between the verb and the preposition. For instance, it’s incorrect to say, “Please look my daughter after while I’m away.”
Verb + Adverb + Preposition
The last type of phrasal verb is composed of the main verb, an adverb, and a preposition. They are also known as phrasal-prepositional verbs or three-word phrasal verbs. Some examples include get on with, get out of, and run out of.
I made up some examples so you know how to use phrasal verbs in a sentence.
- He hasn’t gotten on with Maya since kindergarten.
- The agent wants to get out of working the night shift.
- We ran out of milk today.
What are the 20 Most Used Phrasal Verbs?
Check out this list of the most common phrasal verbs examples.
- Call off.
- Calm down.
- Catch up.
- Do over.
- Eat out.
- Figure out.
- Give up.
- Go over.
- Hang out.
- Hold on.
- Keep on.
- Look for.
- Pass out.
- Put off.
- Put on.
- Throw away.
- Turn on/off.
- Turn up/down.
- Wake up.
- Work out.
What are the Most Used Three-Word- Phrasal Verbs?
The most common three-word phrasal verbs are:
- Come up with.
- Get along with.
- Get around to.
- Put up with.
- Look forward to
- Look up to.
- Look down on.
- Live up to
- Keep up with
- Make up for.
What are the Phrasal Verbs I Can Use in a Phone Conversation?
Now that you know the grammatical rules for phrasal verbs, here are some examples you can use in phone conversations.
- Break up.
- Call up.
- Call back.
- Cut off.
- Get through.
- Hang on.
- Hang up.
- Pick up.
- Put through.
- Get back to someone.
- Get off.
- Turn off.
- Phone in.
- Pass on.
Are Idioms Phrasal Verbs?
One of the most common questions about phrasal verbs is whether they are considered idioms or not. Phrasal verbs have more than one word that results in a different meaning.
Therefore, the final compound verb can be idiomatic. That’s because its definition cannot be derived from the different parts’ dictionary meanings.
Extensive Phrasal Verbs List
|To obey a law, rule, or decision
|You must abide by the rules and regulations of the company if you don’t want to be fired.
|To suggest not to do one thing
|I strongly advise against texting when your emotions are all over the place.
|Have similar opinions
|I agreed with the lawyer when he mentioned the importance of swallowing one’s righteous indignation.
|The event organizers are allowing for additional fees and schedule interruptions.
|To request something formal, such as a loan, job, or permit
|I want to apply for a scholarship this coming school year.
|Concede, accept defeat
|I will not back down on your threats.
|Sheila blacked out after the night out.
|To get angry, to be popular online
|Your tweet isn’t going to blow up if you have a private account.
|To relax after an anxious, irritated, or energetic state.
|Drinking tea instead of coffee might help you calm down.
|Verify an object or thing, Flirtatiously look at a person
|Several girls will check you out if you wear those sweatpants.
|Be successful in sports, business, or any endeavor
|The basketball team cleaned up during the finals.
|Take care of a situation, manage a problem
|Dealing with a kid’s tantrums can be stressful.
|Occupy oneself with something
|Let’s dive into the Twilight Saga tonight.
|Become less severe, slow down
|My skin irritation eases off after summertime.
|To not happen, fail
|My plan to start a business and pursue law fell through.
|Discover, find the answer, understand
|Three years later, I’m still figuring out why my laptop broke.
|The company wants to get ahead in terms of branding and online presence.
|I do not understand what you’re getting at.
|To cease opposition
|This country will never give in to despotic laws.
|End a conversation on the cell phone or telephone
|Don’t hang up. We’ll talk about a lot of things
|To be quick
|Hurry up because I don’t want to be late for class.
|All the students should join in the online discussion.
|Keep up with
|Stay at an equal level as someone
|I can’t keep up with the latest news about him.
|No matter the mistakes you commit, you will never let me down.
|Let go of
|Release or free
|Don’t let go of your belongings every time you’re in public.
|Look down on
|To consider inferior
|It’s rude to look down on people in the service industry.
|Make fun of
|Make jokes about
|Do not make fun of someone else’s insecurities.
|Stop making up excuses for not working out.
|Jackie nodded off on the couch.
|Own up to your mistakes.
|I heard that my favorite professor passed away in his sleep last week.
|Jeff will pick me up at 8 PM tomorrow.
|To direct attention to something
|What are you trying to point out? I’ve already understood your message.
|We don’t have to rely on them anymore.
|Run out of
|To have no more of something
|We are running out of rice and potatoes.
|To want to be admired, to brag
|The valedictorian rightfully showed off her medals and certificates.
|My parents taught me to stand up when greeting a visitor.
|Take care of
|To look after
|Please take care of my computer.
|Say no or reject
|I turned down Mr. Rooney’s offer last year because I found a better opportunity in Miami.
|Fill something to the top, to finish something
|He topped off my beverage.
|Finish a product
|I used up all the shampoo and conditioner. Let’s go grocery shopping.
|Watch out for any falling debris.
|To be unusable, be exhausted
|I’ve been worn out after hours of running and lifting barbells.
|To perform physical exercise
|Is jogging considered working out?
|Please wipe off all surfaces in your room, including your bedside table and desk.
Practice Using Phrasal Verbs
I hope this help! Just remember that phrasal verbs are groups of words that act as a single verb. They are composed of a standard verb and a preposition or adverb. Learning the different phrasal verbs and their definitions will help you expand your vocabulary. Do you have other suggestions for phrasal verbs not mentioned in my guide?