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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


Hi team,

What does the phrasal verb 'for when' mean in a sentence like 'for when the sun shines, the heat returns, the wild flower blooms'?


Hi maira18,

Actually, this isn't a phrasal verb. A phrasal verb always has a verb in it, but there's no verb here. 

In this sentence, 'for' means 'because'. It seems like the writer wrote this sentence to explain something that he or she said before.

I hope that helps!


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team,

What is the difference between following phrases:
A) the dwindling chance,
B) the chance dwindling


A) the flooding water,
B) the water flooding

Thanks in advance.

Hi mehransam05,

The first example in each pair (example A) is a normal adjective+noun combination.

The second example needs a context. By itself, these phrases do not look like correct forms but they could exist as parts of sentences. For example, you could have a reduced relative clause here: the chance (which is) dwindling. Without knowing the context, however, we would just be guessing.



The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please rephrase the capitalised words

1. The training necessary to enable them to CARRY OUT their duties

2. We CARRIED OUT her instructions precisely.

3. Will the government CARRY OUT its promise to reform the law?

4. Soldiers are expected to CARRY OUT orders.

5. An investigation into the accident will be CARRIED OUT as soon as possible

6. Turn off the water supply before CARRYING OUT repairs

7. Extensive tests have been CARRIED OUT on the patient.

Hello amit_ck,

I'm afraid we don't provide answers to tasks from elsewhere. It's not our role to do exercises (homework or tests, for example) for our users. We're happy to give advice and explanations, of course, but not to do tasks for you!



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
You need to fill the form in.
You need to fill in the form.Which one is correct?

Hello Stellaaa,

Fill in is an example of a separable phrasal verb. With these verbs you can place a noun object after the particle or between the verb and the particle. However, if the object is a pronoun, it always comes between the verb and the particle.

You need to fill the form in. [correct]

You need to fill in the form. [correct]

You need to fill it in. [correct]

You need to fill in it. [incorrect]



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for giving me such a clear explanation.

Dear Sir,
Which one is correct?"Who should I believe?" or "Whom should I believe?"
Thank you in advance.