Phrasal verbs for English | Speak New York

Phrasal verbs are an integral part of the English language. They are a combination of a verb and one or more particles that function as adverbs or prepositions. It can be difficult for non-native speakers to understand and use correctly, but they are essential for effective communication in English.

What are phrasal verbs?

Phrasal verbs are a type of multi-word verb that consists of a main verb and one or more particles. The particles can be either adverbs or prepositions, and they change the meaning of the verb. For example, the phrasal verb “look up” means to search for information in a reference book or online, while the verb “look” on its own simply means to direct one’s gaze in a particular direction.

It can be separable or inseparable. Inseparable phrasal verbs, the particle can be separated from the verb and placed in different parts of the sentence. For example, in the sentence “I looked up the meaning of that word,” “up” can be moved to the end of the sentence: “I looked the meaning of that word up.” In inseparable phrasal verbs, the particle cannot be separated from the verb. For example, in the sentence “She broke down when she heard the news,” “down” cannot be moved to a different position in the sentence.

Why are phrasal verbs important?

Phrasal verbs are important because they are commonly used in everyday conversation and writing. If you want to speak English fluently and communicate effectively with native speakers, you need to know how to use phrasal verbs correctly. Using phrasal verbs can also make your English sound more natural and idiomatic, rather than sounding like a textbook or dictionary definition.

Common phrasal verbs

Here are some common phrasal verbs that you might encounter in English conversation or writing:

  1. Look after – to take care of someone or something Example: My sister looks after my cat when I’m out of town.
  2. Give up – to stop doing something, especially because it’s difficult Example: I gave up smoking last year.
  3. Turn up – to arrive or appear unexpectedly or without prior notice Example: He turned up at the party uninvited.
  4. Put off – to postpone or delay something Example: We had to put off our trip to the beach because of the bad weather.
  5. Get on – to make progress or develop Example: I’m getting on well with my new colleagues at work.
  6. Look for – to search for something Example: Have you looked for your keys everywhere?
  7. Run out of – to use up all of something and have none left Example: We ran out of milk this morning, so I had to have my coffee black.
  8. Take off – to remove clothing or accessories, or to leave quickly Example: She took off her coat and hung it up in the closet.
  9. Bring up – to raise a topic or subject in conversation Example: He brought up the issue of climate change during the meeting.
  10. Makeup – to invent or create something, or to reconcile with someone after an argument Example: I made up a story to explain why I was late for the meeting.

Using phrasal verbs in context

Now that we’ve looked at some common phrasal verbs, let’s see how they can be used in context:


Example 1: Person A: Are you going to look after the kids while I go to the grocery store? Person B: Sure, I’m happy to help out.

Example 2: Person A: I’m finding this math problem really difficult. I think I might give up. Person B: Don’t give up yet. Let’s try to work through it together.

Example 3: Person A: I heard that John is coming to the party tonight. Person B: Really? I didn’t know he was in town. He always turns up unexpectedly.

Example 4: Person A: Did you finish your essay on time? Person B: No, I had to put it off until tomorrow. I was too busy with other assignments.

Example 5: Person A: How’s your new job going? Person B: It’s going well. I’m getting on with my colleagues and learning a lot.

Example 6: Person A: Have you looked for your phone charger? Person B: Yes, I looked for it in all the usual places but I couldn’t find it.

Example 7: Person A: Can you make pancakes for breakfast? Person B: Sorry, we ran out of pancake mix. We’ll have to go to the store later.

Example 8: Person A: It’s getting hot in here. Do you mind if I take off my jacket? Person B: Not at all. It’s warm outside today.

Example 9: Person A: We need to discuss the budget for the next quarter. Person B: That’s a good point. I’m glad you brought it up.

Example 10: Person A: I had a big fight with my sister, but we made up this morning. Person B: That’s great news. I’m glad you were able to reconcile.

Tips for using phrasal verbs

  1. Learn phrasal verbs in context – it’s easier to remember them if you see them used in a sentence or conversation.
  2. Pay attention to separable and inseparable phrasal verbs – this will help you use them correctly in a sentence.
  3. Don’t rely too heavily on phrasal verbs – it’s important to have a variety of vocabulary to express yourself effectively.
  4. Practice using phrasal verbs in conversation – this will help you feel more comfortable using them in everyday communication.
  5. Use a phrasal verb dictionary or app – these resources can help you learn new phrasal verbs and understand their meanings.


Phrasal verbs are an important part of the English language and can be challenging for non-native speakers to learn and use correctly. However, with practice and attention to context and usage, you can become proficient in using it in conversation and writing. Remember to pay attention to separable and inseparable phrasal verbs, and to use a variety of vocabulary to express yourself effectively. With these tips and a little practice, you’ll be using phrasal verbs like a native speaker in no time.

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