Phrasal verbs are great to improve your English. Natives use phrasal verbs constantly, so they can help you to communicate as well as improve your vocabulary bank.

A phrasal verb is exactly like it sounds. It is a phrase of at least two words that acts like a verb, so it is the action of your sentence. Phrasal verbs can be misleading because they do not always translate well and sometimes the meaning is not very obvious.

An example of a not very obvious phrasal verb is ‘pass away’. ‘Pass’ in Spanish translates to ‘pasar’, and ‘away’ translates to ‘lejos’ or ‘fuera’. However when you use ‘pass away’ together as a phrasal verb, the phrase translates to ‘fallecer’ in Spanish. When you think of phrasal verbs as new vocabulary, there are many new vocabulary words available to you in English.

Ex. I am sad because the veterinarian said my dog is going to pass away.

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A standard phrasal verb consists of a Verb part + a Preposition part. A Preposition tells Position. Common prepositions you will see used in phrasal verbs are up, down, on, off, in, out, away, over. Sometimes the preposition part can help you to translate the meaning of the phrasal verb.

Phrasal verbs are great to practice your English tenses! They are very versatile; you can change them into any tense you like. When conjugating a phrasal verb, only change the Verb part of the phrase, and not the Preposition part.

Ex. GOOD = My dog passed away. 

INCORRECT = My dog pass awayed.

INCORRECT = My dog passed awayed.

Here is a list of some common phrasal verbs to add to your vocabulary, or to notice when listening to English content. Try to identify the tense used in the example sentence!

Call off / Call (something) off – to cancel

Ex. We need to call off the meeting due to the weather.

Ex. We need to call the meeting off because it is going to rain.

Calm down – relax after being angry

Ex. You can sit with us after you have calmed down.

Catch up – get to the same point as another person.

Ex. After my week of vacation, it’s going to take me forever to catch up!

Do over / Do (something) over – do again

Ex. I have to do the e-mail over because I sent it to the wrong person.

Eat out – eat at a restaurant

Ex. Let’s make spaghetti tonight, I’m tired of eating out.

Figure out / Figure (something) out – understand or find the answer

Ex. We left early because we figured out the problem.

Ex. We figured the problem out, so we left early.

Give up / Give (something) up – stop trying, quit

Ex. I gave up smoking last year.



Go over (something) review

Ex. Go over your receipt to make sure they charged you correctly.

Hang out – spend time relaxing (informal)

Ex. I don’t have any money, let’s just hang out at my place.

Hold on – wait for a moment

Ex. Hold on one minute, I’m on the phone.

Keep on (doing something) continue what you are doing

Ex. I asked her to wait, but she kept on walking.

Look for / Look for (something or somebody) search for, or try to find

Ex. I was looking for a computer, but I got a tablet instead.

Pass out – faint, lose consciousness

Ex. It is so hot today I might pass out.


Put off / Put (something) off – postpone

Ex. I think we should put the trip off until we save more money.

Put on / Put (something) on – put clothing or accessories on your body

Ex. He looked so silly when he put that hat on.

Throw away / Throw (something) away – put in the garbage, dispose of

Ex. I accidentally threw away my dessert!

Turn on/off – Turn (something) on/off – start or stop the power or energy source

Ex. Can you turn off the music if I fall asleep?

Ex. Turn the lights on please, I can’t see!

Turn up/down – Turn (something) up/down – increase or decrease the volume or strength

Ex. I love this song, turn it up!

Ex. We usually turn the heat down at night.

Turn up – appear suddenly

Ex. My watch turned up in the washing machine.

Turn down / Turn (something) down - refuse

Ex. I didn’t feel good about the offer, so I turned it down.

Wake up – stop sleeping

Ex. She was so loud, that she woke up the baby.

Work out – exercise

Ex. I prefer to work out in the mornings.

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Work out – be successful

Ex. He wasn’t happy at first, but it all worked out in the end.


Written by Sara Boltralik