Phrasal verbs are usually made up of a verb and a preposition or an adverb – and that’s what makes them tricky!
Attaching a tiny little word like ‘at’ or ‘on’ to the end of a verb will change the meaning entirely. So, it’s important to really know your phrasal verbs so that your meaning is always clear.
Read on for our list of the top 50 phrasal verbs in English!
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Top 50 English phrasal verbs
|1. Back down||To stop doing something or admit you were wrong because people oppose you|
If we keep protesting the new city taxes, the mayor will back down.
|2. Blow up||To explode|
That truck crashed into the building and blew up!
To lose your temper
He was annoying me so much that I blew up at him.
|3. Break down||To suddenly stop functioning (used for machinery)|
We were on our way to the party when our car broke down. To become emotional and start crying
When we told her we were moving to Canada, she broke down.
|4. Bring up||To mention something|
He’s still very sad about his divorce, so don’t bring it up.
|5. Bump into||To see or meet someone unexpectedly|
She was shopping today and she bumped into her old primary school teacher!
|6. Call off||To cancel |
Because of the pandemic, we had to call off our wedding.
|7. Check on||To make sure someone is okay or safe|
My friend broke her leg and she’s stuck inside. I check on her every day.
|8. Check out||To examine something to get information about it|
Before we decide on that flat, we should check out the neighbourhood.
To pay your bill and leave (usually a hotel)
Have you packed yet? We have to check out by 11 a.m.
|9. Check with||To ask someone if something is okay or permitted|
I’m pretty sure I can come to your house. I just have to check with my dad.
|10. Come across||To find something unexpectedly|
When I was cleaning my room, I came across my old photo album.
To seem a certain way
I’m sure he’s great, but he always comes across as an unfriendly person.
|11. Come back||To return|
We had a lovely visit. We’ll come back soon!
|12. Come in||To enter|
You don’t need to knock – just come in!
|13. Come up with||To think of a plan or an idea|
Have you come up with a good idea for our group project?
|14. Cut down||To make something fall by cutting it at its base|
To build this housing complex, they had to cut down hundreds of trees.
To do or use something less
I’m feeling rather nervous lately – I think I need to cut down on coffee.
|15. Drop by||To go somewhere (usually someone’s home) for a casual visit|
I’ll be home all day. You can drop by for tea whenever you’re free.
|16. Drop off||To take something or someone to a specific place|
You forgot your jacket in my car. I’ll drop it off at your house later.
|17. Ease up on||To become less strict about something|
When I was younger, my mom didn’t let me see my friends on weeknights, but she’s eased up on her rules lately.
|18. Fall apart||To break into pieces |
I think I finally need to get new shoes – these ones are falling apart.
To stop working well due to many problems
When they couldn’t agree on a fair price, the business deal fell apart.
|19. Fall down||To collapse and fall to the ground|
That big storm last night caused the old tree in our garden to fall down.
|20. Find out||To discover|
I did a DNA test and found out that I have a brother!
|21. Get along||To have a good, friendly relationship with someone|
My brother and I never fought when we were growing up. We always got along with each other.
|22. Get away||To escape|
The police almost caught the bank robber, but he got away.
To go on holiday
I really need to get away for a week. Work has been very stressful lately.
|23. Get by||To be able to live through a difficult situation|
We don’t have a lot of money for food, but we’ll get by.
|24. Get over||To recover from a negative experience or an illness |
I know she’s mad at you now, but she’ll get over it.
|25. Get up||To stand|
Can you please get up? I think you’re sitting on my glasses.
To leave your bed in the morning/after sleeping
I always get up at 7 a.m. – even on Saturdays.
|26. Give away||To give something to others for free |
None of these dresses fit me anymore. I think I’m going to give them away.
To provide information about something that should be kept secret
This farewell party is supposed to be a surprise. Don’t give away the secret!
|27. Give in||To finally agree to someone’s requests after refusing for a while|
Our kids have been asking us for a puppy for six months. We finally gave in and got them one.
|28. Give up||To stop doing something permanently|
My health is getting worse. I need to give up drinking.
To stop trying
We’ve been working on this maths problem for an hour. I give up!
|29. Go ahead||To start or continue a planned activity |
Despite the social distancing rules, the music festival will go ahead.
|30. Go out||To leave home and go somewhere|
We’ve stayed home for months! I just want to go out and have fun.
To have a romantic (dating) relationship with someone
My girlfriend and I have been going out two years now.
|31. Grow up||To develop into adulthood|
When I grow up, I want to be a biologist.
|32. Hang on||To wait for a short period of time|
Can you hang on for two minutes? I just need to finish writing this email, then I’ll be ready to go.
To hold something tightly
This boat ride will be a little bumpy – hang on!
|33. Hang out||To spend time relaxing or socialising casually|
My favourite thing to do at the weekend is to hang out with my dog.
|34. Kick out||To forcefully tell someone to leave a place|
She was so angry at her teenage son that she kicked him out of the house!
|35. Let in||To allow someone to enter a place|
Let me in the house! It’s freezing out here!
|36. Look after||To take care of something or someone |
Can you look after my plants while I’m on holiday next month?
|37. Look for||To try to find something|
We’ll leave in a minute. Help me look for my keys!
|38. Look up||To search for information (usually in a book or online)|
I want to try that new Japanese restaurant. Can you look up their menu online?
|39. Make up||To become friendly with someone again or forgive them after a disagreement or fight |
You two haven’t spoken to each other in three weeks! When are you going to make up?
|40. Pay back||To repay the money you borrowed from someone |
Can I borrow some money for lunch? I’ll pay you back tomorrow.
To take revenge
I can’t believe she ate all the biscuits I made! I’ll pay her back for this!
|41. Pick up||To lift something from a surface |
My dog has got so big! He’s too heavy for me to pick up now.
To go somewhere and collect something or someone
Let’s go to the cinema in one car – I’ll pick you up at 8 o’clock.
To improve or increase
Business was slow last year, but sales are finally picking up!
|42. Put off||To delay doing something|
I know I should clean my bathroom, but I’ve been putting it off for weeks.
|43. Put on||To begin wearing something|
If you want to play outside in the snow, make sure to put on a coat.
|44. Put up with||To tolerate something|
The neighbour’s dog barks all night long, but I put up with it because I love my house.
|45. Run out||To have no more of something |
Oh, no! Why didn’t you tell me we ran out of coffee?
|46. Take off||To leave somewhere suddenly|
He didn’t even say goodbye. He just took off!
To go into the air (used for aircraft)
Our flight is taking off at 2 p.m. so we need to be at the airport by 11 a.m.
To remove something (like an article of clothing)
I can’t wait to get home and take off these tight shoes!
|47. Turn on||To cause something to start working; to activate|
It’s getting dark; let’s turn on the lights.
|48. Turn up||To increase the volume, heat, or lights |
This is my favourite song! Turn it up!
To appear suddenly
Would you believe our cat turned up after being lost for six months?
|49. Wait up||To stay awake because you are waiting for something or someone|
I’ll be home late tonight. You don’t have to wait up for me.
|50. Watch out||To be careful of danger (usually said as a warning)|
Watch out! There’s a car coming!
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Andrea is a Canadian freelance writer and editor specializing in English, e-learning, EdTech, and SaaS. She has a background as an ESL teacher in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. In her free time, Andrea loves hanging out with her husband and children, creating recipes in the kitchen, and reading fiction. She also loves camping and jumping into lakes whenever possible. Learn more about Andrea on LinkedIn or check out her website.