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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?

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 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 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 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

Upper intermediate: B2


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,


The LearnEnglish Team

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?

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,


The LearnEnglish Team

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,


The LearnEnglish Team

These phrase verb is good enough to use every day and I have remembered
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.



The LearnEnglish Team

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 ?

Hello Karan Narang,

Different people learn very differently, but in general, I wouldn't recommend trying to memorise everything on a webpage before moving on. Study it for awhile -- and it's better if you do something active like write down different example sentences than simply read them over and over again -- and then do a page in our Skills section. As you listen or read that page, see if you find any phrasal verbs. Then study the Skills page a bit.

The next time you study, look back at this page or at your notes about this page and practise with it actively in some way. Then do the same with the Skills page.

Most people need to see what they are studying at least three or four times spaced out over time to be able to have a chance at remembering it long-term. This is why reading and listening can be so useful -- you see or hear the words and phrases many times in different meaningful contexts.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team