Phrasal verbs

Do you know how to use verbs in phrases like pick the kids up, turn the music down and look after my cat? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how phrasal verbs are used.

This is the form. Please can you fill it in?
Why are you bringing that argument up now?
Police are looking into connections between the two crimes.
We need to come up with a solution.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Separable and non-separable multi-word verbs: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Phrasal verbs are very common in English, especially in more informal contexts. They are made up of a verb and a particle or, sometimes, two particles. The particle often changes the meaning of the verb.

I called Jen to see how she was. (call = to telephone)
They've called off the meeting. (call off = to cancel)

In terms of word order, there are two main types of phrasal verb: separable and inseparable. 

Separable

With separable phrasal verbs, the verb and particle can be apart or together.

They've called the meeting off.
OR
They've called off the meeting.

However, separable phrasal verbs must be separated when you use a personal pronoun. 

The meeting? They've called it off.

Here are some common separable phrasal verbs:

I didn't want to bring the situation up at the meeting.
(bring up = start talking about a particular subject)

Please can you fill this form in?
(fill in = write information in a form or document)

I'll pick you up from the station at 8 p.m.
(pick up = collect someone in a car or other vehicle to take them somewhere)

She turned the job down because she didn't want to move to Glasgow.
(turn down = to not accept an offer)

Non-separable

Some phrasal verbs cannot be separated. 

Who looks after the baby when you're at work?

Even when there is a personal pronoun, the verb and particle remain together.

Who looks after her when you're at work?

Here are some common non-separable phrasal verbs:

I came across your email when I was clearing my inbox.
(come across = to find something by chance)

The caterpillar turned into a beautiful butterfly.
(turn into = become)

It was quite a major operation. It took months to get over it and feel normal again.
(get over = recover from something)

We are aware of the problem and we are looking into it.
(look into = investigate)

Some multi-word verbs are inseparable simply because they don't take an object.

I get up at 7 a.m.

With two particles

Phrasal verbs with two particles are also inseparable. Even if you use a personal pronoun, you put it after the particles.

Who came up with that idea?
(come up with = think of an idea or plan)

Let's get rid of these old magazines to make more space.
(get rid of = remove or become free of something that you don't want)

I didn't really get on with my stepbrother when I was a teenager.
(get on with = like and be friendly towards someone)

Can you hear that noise all the time? I don't know how you put up with it.
(put up with = tolerate something difficult or annoying)

The concert's on Friday. I'm really looking forward to it.
(look forward to = be happy and excited about something that is going to happen)

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Separable and non-separable multi-word verbs: Grammar test 2

Language level

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Hi DaniWeebKage,

Actually, you could use either tense here :) But there's a very slight difference in meaning.

She has cheated me (present perfect) emphasises that the past action is relevant to the present moment of speaking. It implies that the same action (cheating you) could happen again this time, and that's why you don't want to meet her.

She cheated me (past simple) presents this past action as a fact of the past, at a particular time (once before). The same meaning is possible: you don't want to meet her because you fear she will cheat you again. (But, the present perfect shows this more clearly than the past simple because it emphasises the relevance of the past action to the present moment of speaking). Alternatively, it can be understood as some other cause and effect, e.g. she cheated you, so now you're upset with her, and that's the reason why you don't want to meet. 

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by amit_ck on Tue, 15/09/2020 - 08:57

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I have some confusion among By chance, By accident and Happen to do something Could you please help me with it? And give me some examples of them.

Hello amit_ck,

They all have very similar meanings. When we say something happens 'by chance', we mean we didn't plan it -- for example, when we see a friend in the supermarket without having planned it. 'by accident' means the same thing. I'd say there is a tendency to use 'by accident' more often when we consider the thing that happens negative, but I'm not completely sure that's true.

'to happen' is used in general to speak about something that isn't planned, and so can also mean 'to do or be by chance'. So 'to happen to do something' means 'to do something by chance'.

You can find examples of all of these in the dictionary -- follow the link I provided and you'll see one.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MarcosPermin on Wed, 02/09/2020 - 18:57

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Hi team, I have a question. In phrasall verbs like "look forward" the verb must be with -ing. In which other phrasal verbs the verb must be with -ing? Is there a rule?
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Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 05/09/2020 - 14:14

In reply to by MarcosPermin

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Hello MarcosPermin,

'to look forward' is always followed by the preposition 'to', not by an infinitive. In other words, in a sentence like 'I'm looking forward to seeing you', 'to' is not part of a verb -- it is a preposition.

When a verb follows a preposition, it always goes in the '-ing- form.

It's also possible to use a noun phrase after 'look forward to', for example: 'I'm looking forward to the new James Bond film'.

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Salum Hilali on Thu, 23/07/2020 - 08:05

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Hello.Is it correct to say 'Tomorrow is my birthday,I'm looking forward to it. I have missed my parents so much ,I look forward to visiting them in the next week.

Hello Salum Hilali,

Yes, those are both correct -- well done! 

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Karan Narang on Tue, 21/07/2020 - 04:42

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These phrase verb is good enough to use every day and I have remembered All. But now I am looking forward for more to use my daily routine. I have questions for you. How much phrase verb should I know for good speaking in english at every day ?

Hello Karan Narang,

Phrasal verbs are quite common, especially in spoken English, so they're a useful area to study. I can't give you a number of how many you should learn, however, any more than I can tell you how many words you need to know in general. Keep practising, keep good records of words you learn and you will improve day by day.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Karan Narang

Submitted by Karan Narang on Mon, 20/07/2020 - 05:04

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I am still in this lesson until I will not understand or embedded in mind, I will not left lesson. Could you tell me. How much should I practice in english a day to remember forever ?