Don’t worry. No one expects you to know or remember them all. Even native speakers can’t recall every example because people typically learn them through exposure.
But, if you want to advance your English, you must have a basic understanding of their use along with a working list of common phrasal verbs.
In this article, we will define phrasal verbs, provide some tips and tricks to remember them, and give you a common list tailored for advanced and business English speaking.
What is a Phrasal Verb?
A phrasal verb is a phrase that consists of two or three words typically used in an idiomatic context. It can be broken down (phrasal verb meaning to divide into multiple parts to give detail) into these elements:
- A verb.
- An adverb or a preposition (or both).
Phrasal verbs have some interesting ways of usage:
- The phrase cannot be understood based on the individual meanings of the words in the phrase. It must be taken as a whole to be understood.
- Phrasal verbs can have multiple meanings.
Here are some common examples you should be familiar with as an intermediate level English speaker:
- Give up – To surrender or quit
I had to give up cigarettes when I decided to start running again.
- Hang out – To casually spend time in a particular place
Hey, we’re going to hang out at the park. Do you want to come?
- Calm down – To relax
Let’s all just calm down and stop arguing.
Transitive and Intransitive Phrasal Verbs
Like regular verbs, phrasal verbs are categorized into transitive and intransitive.
- Transitive phrasal verbs must have a direct object that comes after the phrase.
- Intransitive phrasal verbs do not need a direct object.
For example, the phrase ‘ran into’ is a transitive phrasal verb because you can’t leave the phrase as is. You have to have an object after it.
- I ran into. His new suit looks great. – Incorrect
- I ran into Paul. His new suit looks great. – Correct
The phrase ‘come over’ is an example of an intransitive phrasal verb. It doesn’t need an object.
- You can come over after the game.
- When is he going to come over?
In addition, there are some phrasal verbs that are considered both transitive and intransitive based on their meaning. ‘Take off’ is a great example of this concept.
- Take off your coat.
- Take off that hat.
In this context, ‘take off’ means to remove something and requires an object to be understood.
However, in this example:
- The plane will take off soon.
- I’m going to go watch the plane take off.
The phrase ‘take off’ means to leave the ground and does not require an object.
Separable and Inseparable Phrasal Verbs
In addition, phrasal verbs are categorized into separable and inseparable.
- Separable phrasal verbs can be separated in a sentence with a direct object in between the phrase.
- Inseparable phrasal verbs must remain together to be understood.
‘Hand in’ (to submit something) is an example of a separable phrasal verb.
- I’m going to hand in this paper.
- I’m going to hand it in after the class.
‘Look after’ (take care of) is an example of an inseparable phrasal verb.
- Will you look after my cat while I’m gone?
- I’m going to look after my little brother this weekend.
How Do I Remember Them All?
With thousands of phrasal verbs separated into four different categories and multiple definitions, how can anyone be expected to remember them all?
The short answer is: You can’t. And that’s perfectly okay!
You don’t have to know them all to speak English fluently, and most of the time, you’ll be able to understand their meaning through context. As you expose yourself to the English language at an advanced level, you’ll pick up more and more phrasal verbs.
Plus, there are some tricks that will help you learn and remember them faster.
Learning Phrasal Verbs by Topic
If you searched the term ‘Phrasal Verbs’ right now on Google, you would find dozens of phrasal verbs lists broken down by their part of speech: verb, preposition, or adverb.
While trying to memorize lists may work for some areas of grammar, it isn’t efficient with phrasal verbs. As we stated earlier, there are thousands of them in the English language.
Instead, work on exposing yourself to phrasal verbs based on a topic. Even better, choose a topic that greatly interests you. For example, if you enjoy hiking, search for an article about hiking and look up all the phrasal verbs you see in the article.
Compile your own phrasal verbs list and share it with us in the comments!
I found these examples in one article:
- She fell behind.
- I stopped to fill up my canteen.
- It was worth it to look over the map before we headed out.
- I just told them to go ahead without me.
- The sign said to keep away from that area because of the poisonous plants.
Song lyrics provide another great resource for learning phrasal verbs. The mind can recall things with a musical association. When you first started learning English, your teacher might have used songs to teach some basic concepts.
Phrasal verbs are no different, and songs provide a great opportunity to explore new concepts. Here’s a great phrasal verbs playlist to help you get started.
Reading the News
A great source that contains a wide variety of phrasal verbs is the news. Search for a current event and click the news tab within Google for an endless supply of articles.
In addition, news articles contain phrasal verbs with their current usage. It’s a great opportunity to start compiling a phrasal verbs list and look up their meaning. After all, you already have a Google search tab open!
Get Started with This Phrasal Verbs List
Memorizing lists may not be the best way to learn all the phrasal verbs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of this short list of phrasal verbs we’ve tailored for advanced and business English learners.
These are some common phrases you’ll hear either in the office or on TV.:
Phrasal Verbs List for More Advanced English Learners
- Meaning: Leave a hotel
We have to check out by noon tomorrow.
- Meaning: Pay a bill
I’ll be home in five minutes. I’m checking out at the grocery store.
- Meaning: Borrow something
I checked this book out from the library.
- Meaning: Examine
Check out that movie when you get a chance. I think you’d really like it.
- Meaning: Validate
We spoke with her sister, and her story checks out. She was at the movies on Tuesday.
- Meaning: To make use of something
He drew on his fencing experience to stage the sword fighting scene.
- Meaning: Arrive somewhere; typically by accident or after other activities
We drove around looking for the house, but somehow we ended up on the other side of the city.
- Meaning: To be or arrive in a particular state
Every time we go to Paul’s house, we end up arguing over whose turn it is to bring the wine.
Face up to
- Meaning: To deal with or accept a situation that is difficult
She had to face up to the fact that she would never be a lawyer.
- Meaning: To talk about something with the goal of reaching a deal or agreement
We have to hash out the details, but I think we’ll be purchasing the car.
- Meaning: To move toward something or in a particular direction
The little boy headed for his parents when he saw them in a crowd.
When you see the soldiers, head for the hills.
- Meaning: To gather, assemble, or bring together
He mustered up the courage to ask his parents for a loan.
- Meaning: To acquire a large amount of something for later use
We stocked up beer because the store was closing soon.
- Meaning: To be the result or cause of something
They said his illness stemmed from his refusal to wash his hands.
- Meaning: To access something
She ran out of money, so she tapped into her retirement fund.
- Meaning: To make a connection, typically for advantageous reasons
The president tapped into the will of the people and won the election.
Useful Phrasal Verbs List for Business English Learners
- Meaning: To request help
We called in the police to investigate the robbery.
- Meaning: To request someone comes to a particular place
The manager called him in to discuss what happened the day before.
- Meaning: To place a telephone call to say where you are and/or what you’re doing
I called in to explain that I had a car accident and wouldn’t be able to make it to work.
- Meaning: To contribute
If I could chip in, I think I have some ideas that would help in this situation.
- Meaning: Able to be trusted
I can always count on Carrie to arrive on time.
- Meaning: To reduce the use of something
We have to cut down on the amount of paper we’re using. The bill was very high last month.
- Meaning: To deal with or work on something
We have to deal with this, otherwise our profits will drop fast.
- Meaning: To stop by unexpectedly
The manager dropped in on the team to see if they were on task.
- Meaning: To explain an idea to elicit an opinion
I will run that idea by Sam and see what he thinks.
- Meaning: To get involved
We had to get a manager to step in and resolve the argument.
- Meaning: To carefully consider and give thought to something
We need to think this through before taking any action.
- Meaning: To deny an offer or request
She thought about his offer and eventually turned it down. It wasn’t enough money for the amount of time it would take.
Use this phrasal verbs list, along with our tips, to add more words and phrases to your vocabulary. If want to explore more topics to help you master your English, visit the Magoosh English Speaking Blog.