Phrasal verbs are very common in English conversation. Learning phrasal verbs is a great way to make your English sound more natural.
Some phrasal verbs are literal, which means the meaning is exactly what the words say. Some phrasal verbs are metaphorical, this means they have a completely different meaning than you would associate with the verb by itself.
|literal – look around||metaphorical – look out|
|To go someplace and move around it to see what is there.||Be careful, something dangerous is coming.|
|“I enjoy visiting new places and looking around.”||“There’s a snake in that tree! Look out!”|
Another category of phrasal verbs is separable and inseparable. This simply means that some verbs can take a subject in between the verb and the particle and some cannot.
|separable – put aside||inseparable – look after|
|To save something or keep it available to use||To be responsible for, or to take care of someone or something|
|“I put money aside every month for when I retire.”|
(The subject money can be placed in between the verb put and the adverb aside.)
|“My sister will look after my kids while my wife and I are on vacation.”|
(We cannot put a subject between the inseparable phrasal verb look after.)
42 Advanced Phrasal Verbs
- Be up for Something – To want or be willing to do something.
- We’re going to go hiking this weekend, you can join us if you’re up for it.
- I’ll ask Kevin if he wants to come to the pub with us tonight but he had a long day, so I’m not sure he’ll be up for it.
- Be up to Something – To be doing something.
- Hey Jeff, what are you up to today?
*This can also mean to be doing something secretly.
- Todd has been sneaking around the office all morning, I think he’s up to something.
- Bounce back – To return to health or return to a good condition after an illness, injury, or difficulty.
- Lucas injured his shoulder in the rugby match last weekend but I’m sure he can bounce back in no time. He’s a tough guy.
*We can bounce back from something.
- Travel companies are starting to bounce back from the loss of business during the pandemic.
- Bounce something off someone – To share an idea or plans with someone so they can tell you what they think about it.
- I’ve been thinking about ways to increase company profits next year. I’d like to bounce some ideas off you if that’s okay. I would love to know what you think.
- Block off – to close a road or an opening by placing a barrier at one end or in front of it.
- The news just said that a water pipe burst downtown today. Emergency crews are trying to fix the damage and the police have blocked off Main Street. It must be a traffic nightmare.
*This is separable is a verb so we can put an object in between the verb and the preposition – block something off.
- The police have blocked Main Street off.
- Build up –
1) To become greater, stronger, or to increase in number.
- The movie had a nice steady build up until the big finale. It was fun.
2) Build somebody/something up – to give a very positive and enthusiastic description of somebody/something, often making them seem better than they really are.
- Really? I didn’t like the movie at all. It was built up to be the most exciting movie of the year but I was disappointed.
3) Build somebody/yourself up – To make somebody/yourself healthier or stronger.
- Did you see Anthony today? He has so much muscle! He really built himself up over the summer. She must have joined a gym.
- Bump into – To meet someone by chance.
- I bumped into Shannon this morning at the train station. She looked great, I think she lost weight.
- Call off – To cancel something.
- The boss called off the meeting today so we can all go home early. That’s great.
*This is separable phrasal verb so we can put an object in between the verb and the preposition – Call something off
- The boss called the 5:00 meeting off today.
- Catch up (with) – To reach somebody who is further ahead of you.
- You guys head to the restaurant now and I’ll catch up with you later. I’ve got a bit more work to do before I can leave.
*We can also catch someone up – Give someone information that was shared earlier that they didn’t receive.
- Smith was late today due to the heavy traffic on Main Street. Can you guys catch him up on this morning’s meeting?
- Clamp down on – To take strict action in order to prevent something, especially crime.
- The city has installed new traffic cameras to clamp down on people running red lights.
1)To be understood.
- After I did a practice presentation, I felt the message didn’t really come across in my speech. I need to rewrite it to make it clear.
2) To find or discover something by accident.
- I came across an old photo album in my grandmother’s attic. It was fun to see photos of my Dad when he was small.
- Come up with -To find or make an answer, an amount of money, etc.
- I need to come up with another $200 if I want to buy that new moped.
- If we work together I’m sure we can come up with a solution that works for everyone.
- Crack down on – To make more effort to prevent illegal activities and give stronger penalties to the people who do them.
- The police have set up a new task force to crack down on car theft in the city.
- Crank something out – To produce a lot of something quickly.
- The writer locked himself in a hotel room so he would have no distractions. His goal was to crank out 300 pages of his book over the weekend.
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- Crop up – To appear or happen unexpectedly.
- Who is Jonathan? I hear his name crop up in a lot of conversations around the office. Is he the new manager?
- Face up to – To accept or deal with something that is difficult.
- Rayleen had to face up to the fact that the relationship was over.
*The phrasal verb face up to is often paired with the fact.
- Fall out with – To end of friendly relationship with someone due to a disagreement or improper behavior.
- I fell out with Rory 6 months ago. We haven’t talked since.
*It’s common to use falling out as a noun phrase with the verb had.
- Rory and I had a falling out 6 months ago.
- Figure something out – 1) To think about somebody/something until you understand them/it.
- Sean is an odd guy, I could never figure him out.
- This is a small problem, I’m sure we can figure it out together.
2) To calculate an amount or the cost of something
- My wife wants to go to Hawaii, and I need to figure out how much it will cost.
- Freak out – To become or cause someone else to become very uncomfortable or excited.
- Try not to freak out but I might be able to sell my company 4 million dollars. Isn’t that amazing!
*This is separable is a verb so we can put an object in between the verb and the preposition – freak someone out
- My aunt has a creepy doll in her living room that looks like his eyes follow you wherever you go. That thing freaks me out every time I visit.
- Hash out – (informal, especially North American English) To discuss something carefully and completely in order to reach an agreement or decide something.
- The contract is almost ready, we just need to hash out some details, and then I can sign it.
- Iron out – To sort out any problems or difficulties.
- I like your business plan but before I invest any money we need to iron out a few details.
The phrasal verbs hash out and iron out are often used with the noun details.
- Jot down – To write something down quickly.
- I usually carry a small notepad with me so I can jot down any ideas that come to me.
- Lay off – (informal) 1. To stop pressuring or bothering someone.
- I think David is having a hard time at work, maybe we should lay off him for a while.
- (informal) To stop using something.
- Holy cow, I’ve gained 6 kg in 4 months. I need to lay off the fast food and start eating healthy.
- To stop employing somebody because there is not enough work for them to do.
- The company was losing money so they had to lay off 50 workers from their factory.
*This is separable is a verb so we can put an object in between the verb and the preposition – lay someone off
- The company will lay 50 workers off at the end of the summer.
- Look down on – If you look down on someone you think that you are better than them.
- I don’t like the way Melanie looks down on everyone. She thinks she’s so special but really she’s not.
- Look something over – To carefully look at something to check its condition and quality.
- My friend Martin is a licensed mechanic so I asked him to look the car over before I bought it.
- Mull something over – To carefully consider something.
- I understand your proposal, let me mull it over tonight and I’ll give you my answer tomorrow morning.
- Pass away – To die, this is used as a gentler way to talk about someone who is no longer with us.
- My high school Spanish teacher passed away last month, he was a great guy. Adios my friend, you will be missed.
- Plod along – To make very slow progress, especially with difficult or boring work.
- Filling out this paperwork is the most boring part of my job. I just have to plod along until it’s finished.
- Put up with – To tolerate something.
- Marcos is rude to all the girls in the office, they’re not going to put up with this any longer.
- Ramp up – To make something increase in amount.
- The whole team needs to ramp up our efforts to get this product launched on schedule.
- The factory has ramped up production to meet the surge in demand.
- Run something by – This phrasal verb’s meaning is similar to bounce off someone. You want to share a plan or an idea with another person to get their feedback.
- It’s a good idea, let’s run it by the manager to get his reaction. If he likes it, we can go ahead and start.
*We can also say run something past someone.
- Let me run this idea past Jonah first, he has experience in this area.
- See off – To take someone to the airport, bus/train station, etc. and say goodbye before they leave
- Tomorrow I’ll drive my son to the airport and see him off.
Visit my post > 74 Idioms and Phrasal Verbs with OFF (With Real Examples) and learn more ways to use OFF in conversation > https://worldenglishblog.com/idioms-and-phrasal-verbs-with-off/
- Sign up – to sign or add your name to a document, form, or contract that says you agree to do a job or to participate in something.
- Randall just walked into the Army recruiting office and signed up for five years. He has always wanted to be a soldier.
*We can also say sign on to do something.
- Randall signed on for five years.
Sign up for – To arrange to do a course of study by adding your name to the list of people doing it
- My local library offers free Japanese lessons for foreign people living in the area. I’m going to sign up for classes tomorrow.
If new circumstances or a new situation happens that we are not happy with, prepared for, or enjoying we often use the expression – I didn’t sign up for this.
- This is my third straight Saturday working overtime. At first, I was excited to work for this company but I didn’t sign up for all this overtime!
- Stem from – To be the result of something
- Bullying often stems from a difficult home life for the child. Unfortunately, it’s a cycle.
- Stick Up for – To support or defend yourself or someone else.
- I was big for my age in elementary school so I often stuck up for the smaller kids who were being bullied.
- Stock up on – To buy or prepare many things for later use.
- The weather says a big typhoon is coming in 2 days so we had better stock up on food and water now. It will be tough to go shopping when the storm hits.
- (To) muster up – The verb muster is often used with the prepositions up to mean to find as much support, courage, etc. as you can
- I mustered up the courage, walked to my boss’s office, and demanded a raise.
- Turn down – 1)To reject or refuse an offer, a proposal, etc. or the person who makes it
- I turned down the promotion because I didn’t want to move to the other side of the country.
2) Turn something down/Turn down something – To reduce the noise, heat, etc. produced by a piece of equipment by moving its controls
- Can you turn the TV down? It’s too loud.
- I’m getting warm, does anyone mind if I turn down the heat?
*The opposite of Turn Down is Turn Up.
- I’m getting chilly, does anyone mind if I turn up the heat?
- Turn out – To be discovered to be; to prove to be
- I was worried about running a half marathon but it turned out to be easier than I thought.
- The antique watch that I bought at the market turned out to be very valuable.
- Weed out – To remove or get rid of people or things from a group because they are not wanted or are less good than the rest
- We look at the applications and weed out the candidates who are not suitable before we start the interviews.
*This is separable is a verb so we can put an object in between the verb and the preposition – weed something/someone out.
- Gangs and troublemakers had taken over the school. The new principal wanted to weed the bad students out so he could turn the school back into a place of learning.
- Weigh in – (informal) to join in a discussion, an argument, an activity, etc. by saying something important.
- It was a big decision so all the staff were asked to weigh in and share their opinions.
*The phrasal verb weigh in is sometimes followed by another preposition, on.
- Walter, you’ve been awful quiet over there. Would you like to weigh in on the topic?
- Wind up –
1) (informal) (of a person) to find yourself in a particular place or situation.
- When I was younger I never thought I would wind up working for my Dad’s company. My life is completely different than I imagined it, but I am happy.
2) wind up something/wind something up – To end something that has been happening, like a speech or a meeting.
- Okay everyone, let’s wind up this meeting and head home.
- Okay everyone, let’s wind this meeting up and head home.
3) wind up somebody/wind somebody up – (British English, informal) to deliberately say or do something in order to annoy somebody.
- Don’t listen to Alexander, he likes to wind up the staff on Monday mornings with his stupid comments. Just ignore him.
- He likes to wind the staff up on Monday mornings, just ignore him.
*DID YOU NOTICE? The title of this post is 42 Advanced Phrasal Verbs but the last verb on this list is numbered 43.
There was an error when my word processing software numbered the Phrasal Verbs because I had to change the formatting. Some phrasal verbs have several meanings.
This caused a problem in counting and somehow my list of Phrasal Verbs lost the number 19. Without number 19 on the list, the total is really 42!
I left it in as a challenge to see who could find it.
Which Phrasal Verbs from this post were new for you? Which Phrasal Verbs have you already heard? Tell me in the comments.