Verb Phrase S

save * up + accumulate (money) I hope I will be able to save up enough money to go to school.
see about + arrange or consider something My dad said he was going to see about buying me a car.
see * off say good-bye to someone at the beginning of their trip (at the airport, train station) Did you see your sister off at the train station?
see to + make sure something happens, arrange I’ll see to it that Mr. Ramirez gets your message.
see * through finish something despite difficulties Are you going to be able to see your studies through now that you have a baby?
sell * out tell on someone My partner in crime sold me out for a reduced jail sentence.
set * up arrange a relationship My mom set me up with her friend’s son.
set * up falsely incriminate a person I don’t think he killed those men. Somebody set him up.
set up + arrange (an appointment, a meeting,etc.) I set up an appointment with my doctor at 3:30 this afternoon.
settle on + make a decision after a period of time I settled on the job at the oil company.
settle up pay one’s debts We need to settle up before you move.
show * off + show to everybody with a lot of pride He always shows off his new things.
show off boast, draw attention to oneself Young boys show off in order to impress girls.
show * up make someone seem inferior He’s always trying to show up his co-workers in order to get ahead.
show up arrive without previous notice I hadn’t seen my cousin for years, and all of a sudden, he showed up at my workplace yesterday!
shut * off stop from functioning If you don’t pay your electric bill, your power is going to get shut off.
shut * up make quiet Would someone shut him up! He’s talking so loudly that we’re going to get in trouble.
slow * down + make move more slowly Because Mary’s level in English is lower than the rest of the students, she slows the class down.
slow * up + make move more slowly Because Mary’s level in English is lower than the rest of the students, she slows the class up.
spell * out + to explain something in a detailed way so that the meaning is clearly understood He’s so stupid that you have to spell everything our for him.
stand by wait I need you to stand by and answer the phone when my broker calls.
stand for + represent SCUBA stands for “self contained underwater breathing apparatus.”
stand for + tolerate I won’t stand for people criticizing me.
stand out be very noticeable Soledad is so beautiful! She really stands out in a crowd.
stand * up not arrive to a date or an appointment (inf.) I arranged to meet Joe at the library at 8:00, but he stood me up. I hope he has a good excuse.
stand up for + defend (something one believes in) Every individual must stand up for what they believe in.
stand up to + defend oneself against someone or something I think you should stand up to your older brother and tell him to stop pushing you around.
stay over spend the night at a person’s house It takes you so long to take the bus home, so why don’t you just stay over?
stick it to + severely criticize a person (inf.) My boss really stuck it to me when I arrived late to work for the third time this week.
stick to + persevere, keep trying Even though English is a hard language to master, you must stick to it!
stick up for + defend oneself or opinions Joseph joined the army because he believes he must stick up for his country.

Verb Phrase H

hand * back + return Is the teacher going to hand back our tests today?
hand * down + pronounce formally The president is going to hand his decision down on health care tonight.
hand * down + give as an inheritance When my clothes got too small for me as a child, I handed them down to my sister.
hand * in + submit I have to hand in an offer by March 12.
hand * out + distribute We should hand the concert fliers out at school.
hand * over + relinquish control of Hand your car keys over. You’re too drunk to drive.
hang around + stay in a place for fun ( inf.) Maria and Salvador usually hang around the beach after school.
hang around stay in a place for fun Those guys just hang around all day.
hang * up + suspend (clothes on a hanger) You can hang your jacket up in the front closet.
hang up put down the telephone receiver Don’t hang up. I’m going to change phones.
hang out + stay in a place for fun (inf.) Let’s go hang out at the mall tonight.
hang out stay in a place for fun What are you doing? – – I’m just hanging out.
have * on + wear Do you have your hiking boots on?
have * over invite guests to your home Why don’t we have Mr. and Mrs. Jones over for dinner tonight.
hear from + receive news from (a letter, an e-mail) Have you heard from Steve lately?
hear of + know about something or somebody Have you heard of chocolate covered ants?
hit on + find on accident I hit on the idea while watching the Simpsons show.
hit on + flirt with Jay’s friend Marc was trying to hit on my sister last night.
hold * back + restrain The police held the demonstrators back while the politicians entered the building.
hold back not allow to advance in school The teacher held Frank back a year, so he couldn’t enter fifth grade.
hold * off + restrain Mr. Johnson held the dog off while we crossed the yard.
hold off on + delay We should hold off on making dinner until your parents arrive.
hold on grasp tightly Hold on tight! The roller coaster is about to take off.
hold on tell someone to wait on the telephone Hold on a minute. I’ll get Carol.
hold on to + grasp tightly Make sure you hold on to the hand rail as you walk down the stairs.
hold out not give in, continue to resist Stop holding out and tell us where you found all of these old records.
hold out against + not give in, resist They held out against enemy attack.
hold * up + delay (a flight, traffic); The accident held traffic up for an hour.
hold * up + rob (a bank, a person) with a weapon Five men held the bank up yesterday.
hook * up + make the electrical connections required for a machine or information service Can you hook up the fax machine for me?

Verb Phrase P

pan out be successful, turn out well The trip to Vegas didn’t pan out.
pass away die After battling cancer for several years, he finally passed away at the age of 87.
pass * off + try to convince someone that something is real He tried to pass the fake watch off as a real Rolex.
pass * on + transmit Please pass this message on to your co-workers.
pass on + not accept (an invitation to eat or do something) Jennifer passed on the invitation to join us for dinner.
pass on die I am afraid Professor Johnson has passed on.
pass * out + distribute We need to pass out these flyers for the concert tomorrow.
pass out become unconscious He passed out because the room was too hot.
pass * up + not take advantage (of an opportunity) I can’t believe she passed up the opportunity to study in Rome.
pay * back + repay If I loan you money, will you pay me back.
pay * off + complete payment on a debt It took me ten years to pay off my credit card debt.
pay * off + to bribe Don’t try to pay the police officer off if you get pulled over for speeding.
pick on + to tease, bully She keeps picking on me! Make her stop.
pick * out + choose Diane picked out a lovely dress for the dance.
pick * up + to lift an object with the hands Keep your back straight when you lift the TV up.
pick * up + come and get someone in a car What time are you going to pick me up.
pick * up + learn something without effort It’s possible to pick up enough English in two weeks to get by on your trip to Los Angeles.
pick * up + try to initiate a relationship with someone (often in a bar) Some weird guy tried to pick Patricia up at the bar.
pick up grow, increase (inf.) Business is really picking up this quarter.
play * down + make less important (inf.) The President played down his affair with the intern.
play * up highlight something (inf.) She played up her part in the new movie, but it was actually a very small role.
play up to + flatter someone for your personal advantage She has been playing up to the boss because she wants a promotion.
point * out + indicate I’d like to point out that figures in column two might be outdated.
pull down earn He pulls down about $300,000 a year.
pull in park (a vehicle) Mark pulled in too quickly and crashed into the wall.
pull out depart (a vehicle) Our train pulls out at 8:00, so don’t be late.
pull through barely survive I didn’t think she was going to make it, but she pulled through in the end.
put * across + communicate (an idea or suggestion) clearly so that it is understood I thought Ms. Smith put her ideas across rather clearly in the meeting.
put * away + return to the proper place of storage I told you kids to put your toys away.
put * down + insult, say bad things about She always puts down people who don’t share her opinions.
put in + officially submit a request (in the armed forces or public services) He put in for a transfer to the division in Los Angeles.
put * off + postpone Don’t put off your work – do it now!
put * on + wear Make sure you put on a sweater before you go outside.
put * on + deceive I didn’t believe a thing he said. I think he was putting me on.
put * out + extinguish (a fire) Don’t use water to put out a grease fire.
put * out + inconvenience someone I don’t want to put you out, but could you pick me up at the airport.
put out + spend (usually used with unreasonably large sums of money) I can’t put out that much money each month.
put * up have a guest stay in your house for a short time Can you put me up while I’m in town.
put up with + tolerate Sandy will not put up with smoking in her house.

C.Phrasal verbs: grammar and style

Grammar: intransitive verbs

Some phrasal verbs are intransitive and do not need a direct object.

  • The children are growing up. (= getting older and more mature)
  • The doctor told me to lie down on the bed.
  • Don’t wait out there. Please come in. (= enter)
  • I’m going to stay in (= stay at home) this evening.

With these verbs, you cannot put another word between the verb and adverb.

Grammar: transitive verbs

But many phrasal verbs are transitive and do need a direct object.

With some of these, you can put the object between the verb and adverb:

Put on your shoes / Turn on the TV / Put your shoes on /        Turn the TV on /

If the object is a pronoun, it must go between verb and adverb.

Put them on / [not Put on them]   Turn it on / [not Turn on it]

Note: A dictionary will show you if you can put a word between the verb and adverb:

Style: formal or informal

Some phrasal verbs can be used equally in written or spoken English. Sometimes this is because there is no other easy way to express the meaning of the phrasal verb.

  • I always wake up early, even at weekends.
  • The car broke down (= went wrong; stopped working) on the motorway.
  • The plane couldn’t take off because of bad weather.
  • Thieves broke into (= entered by force and illegally) the house and took money, credit cards and all my jewellery.

Informal phrasal verbs

But most phrasal verbs are informal and are more common in spoken English.

In written English there is often a more formal word with the same meaning.

  • We had to make up a story. (= invent/create from our imagination)
  • I can usually get by on about £200 a week. (= manage)
  • You can leave out question 7. (= omit, i.e. you don’t need to do question 7)
  • They’ve got a problem and they asked me to sort it out. (= resolve (it) / find a solution / do something about it)

Verb Phrase R

read up on + research a topic for a reason I need to read up on the company before I go on the job interview.
ring * up telephone Jack rung me up last night at 3:00 in the morning.
rule * out + eliminate I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of moving to another country if I get a good job offer.
run across + find or meet unexpectedly I ran across some old photos while I was cleaning my house.
run against + compete in an election Gore ran against Bush in the 2000 elections in the U.S.A.
run away leave home permanently before you are a legal adult The child ran away because her parents beat her.
run away from + escape from The child ran away from its parents.
run * down trace Have you run down those phone numbers I asked for last week?
run * down criticize My boss runs everyone down.
run * down hit with a car My dog was run down by a bus.
run down loose power, be very tired You need to wind your watch so it doesn’t run down.
run for + campaign for a government position Gore is running for president of the U.S.A.
run into + meet unexpectedly I ran into my English teacher at the movies last night. She’s so nice!
run * off + make leave The new government is trying to run the drug traffickers off.
run * off reproduce (photocopies) Would you mind running off 10 copies of this document for me?
run off leave quickly Why did you run off after the party?
run off waste water You shouldn’t swim where the sewage runs off into the ocean.
run out of + not have any more of something We ran out of milk this morning, so we need to go to the store.