Phrasal verbs

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. 


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

They've called the meeting off.
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)


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

Average: 4.4 (61 votes)

Submitted by Min Myat Thukha on Fri, 13/11/2020 - 09:41

Dear Sir, Which one is correct?"Who should I believe?" or "Whom should I believe?" Thank you in advance.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 15/11/2020 - 08:01

In reply to by Min Myat Thukha


Hello Min Myat Thukha,

In this sentence the relative pronoun 'who/whom' is the object of the verb, and so both forms are possible. I think 'who' is much more common in modern English.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Serges Orneil on Wed, 28/10/2020 - 10:58

Dear team Is that sentence correct? "Don't forget to fill your personal profile in the folder"
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Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 29/10/2020 - 07:28

In reply to by Serges Orneil


Hello Serges Orneil,

I'm not entirely sure what you want to say here.


If you want the person to make sure that their profile has all the required information, then you might say this:

Don't forget to complete your personal profile (which is) in the folder.

On the other hand, if you want the person to add their profile to the folder then you might say this:

Don't forget to add your personal profile to the folder.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Deolinda Maria on Wed, 14/10/2020 - 18:45

Dear Team I have a doubt relating to the verb to believe. Is the question "Who to believe in?" correct or incorrect? If not, what os the correct way of asking so? Thank you. All the best, Deolinda Marques
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Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 07:33

In reply to by Deolinda Maria


Hello Deolinda Maria,

I guess you are asking about what to say if you are uncertain who is telling the truth and who is lying.


Grammatically, the question is fine. However, I think a more likely way to ask the question is with the modal verb should:

Who should I believe?


Your question sounds very rhetorical and even dramatic, like something an actor might say in a play. In normal conversation the question with should would be more common.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Deolinda Maria on Wed, 14/10/2020 - 18:35

I've checked grammar section.

Submitted by MPhayTp on Sun, 04/10/2020 - 18:39

Dear Team, Could you correct this sentence? I turn her offer to get together down because she cheated me once before. Is this correct? Grammarly?
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Submitted by Jonathan R on Mon, 05/10/2020 - 04:18

In reply to by MPhayTp


Hi DaniWeebKage,

Yes! It's grammatically correct.

But here's one thing to think about. The phrasal verb and particle are quite far separated: I turn her offer to get together down. There's a lot of information separating them. It is correct, but I suggest changing to this: I turn down her offer to get together. It's is easier for listeners or readers to understand.

Best wishes,


Yes, Sir, It's been a while but I've some confusion about Present Perfect and Past Simple. In my example, Can I use "have cheated" instead of "cheated"? Does the meaning change? Which tense is suitable for this situation?