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25 Most Useful Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are not students’ favourite topic, are they? There are so many in the English language and each one has many different meanings.

This is why it’s important to begin memorising the most important ones. Are you ready? Excellent!

It might seem like a lot, but these 25 phrasal verbs will improve not only your written communication, but also your ability to understand conversations. Native speakers use phrasal verbs all the time in conversation!

Most of these phrasal verbs have several meanings, make sure you remember them all!

1. Add up

a- To be added together and equal the expected or correct total.
Example: “We added up the apples: there were 12″

b-To make sense : to seem to be logical or true.
Example: “Her story didn’t add up, I think she was lying, it didn’t make sense”

2. Blow up

a- To fill (something) with air or gas
Example: “Please could you blow up those balloons?”

b- To explode or to cause (something, such as a bomb) to explode.
Example: “The building was blown up by a bomb”

c- To become very angry.
Example: “When I said I couldn’t go to her party, she blew up”

3. Bring up

a- To take care of and teach (a child who is growing up).
Example: “Their grandparents brought them up because their parents were always travelling”

b- To mention (something) when talking : to start to talk about (something).
Example: “Don’t bring up the fight again, please!”

4. Call off

a- To stop doing or planning to do (something) .
Example: “Maria called off the wedding, she decided she didn’t love him”

b- To cause or tell (a person or animal) to stop attacking, chasing, etc.
Example: “Call off your dog! He’s attacking my cat”

5. Carry on

a- To continue to do what you have been doing
Example: “Sorry I interrupted, carry on talking!”

b- To behave or speak in an excited or foolish way.
Example: “The little boy was carrying on: shouting and kicking all day long”

6. Come across

a- To seem to have a particular quality or character : to make a particular impression.
Example: “Julia came across as a bit bossy”

b- To be expressed to someone.
Example: “I tried to sound happy but it came across as over-excited”

c- To meet or find (something or someone) by chance.
Example: “Luis was leaving the fruit shop and he came across Tom, what a coincidence”

7. Come up with

a- To get or think of (something that is needed or wanted).
Example: “We finally came up with a solution to the problem!”

8. Fall apart

a- To break into parts in usually a sudden and unexpected way,
Example: “My cake fell apart when I tried to cut it”

b- To become unable to live in a normal way because you are experiencing a lot of confusion or emotional pain
Example: “After the divorce, she fell apart”

9. Get along

a- To be or remain friendly
Example: “We’re not together anymore, but we get along great”

b- To make progress while doing something.
Example: “How are you getting along at playing the guitar?”

c- To leave a place
Example: “It was lovely to see you, but my friend has to get along, she has class”

d- To become old.
Example: “Her grandma is getting along; she’s almost 99″

10. Get away

a- To go away from a place.
Example: “I cannot wait to get away from the city”

b- To avoid being caught : to escape
Example: “The thieves managed to get away in a stolen car”

c- To not be criticised or punished for (something).
Example: “Yvonne is always lying, I can’t understand how she gets away with it”

11. Get over

a- To stop being controlled or bothered by something, such as a problem or feeling.
Example: “I got over my fear of flying”

b- To stop feeling unhappy about (something).
Example: “Finally, Kylie got over her ex-boyfriend”

c- To become healthy again after (an illness).
Example: “Have you heard? Dave has got over the flu”

12. Give up

a- To stop an activity or effort : to admit that you cannot do something and stop trying
Example: “We all gave up smoking on January 1st”

13. Go on

a- To continue.
Example: “They landed in Paris and then went on to Montpellier”

b- To go or travel to a place before another person or group that is with you.
Example: “You go on to the restaurant, I’ll come in 10 minutes”

c- To happen
Example: “What’s going on? What’s happening?”

d- Used in speech to urge someone to do something
Example: “Go on! Try it, it’s delicious”

14. Hold on

a- To have or keep your hand, arms, etc., tightly around something.
Example: “Hold on to the railing, that way you won’t fall”

b- To succeed in keeping a position, condition, etc.
Example: “I will hold on to my job until May”

15. Look after

a- To take care of (someone or something).
Example: “The nurse looked after the patient for months, until he was better”

16. Look forward to

a- To expect (something) with pleasure.
Example: “William is really looking forward to going on holiday”

17. Look up

a- Improve.
Example: “The economy is finally looking up”

b- To search for (something) in a reference book, on the Internet, etc.
Example: “Let’s look up his number in the yellow pages”

18. Make out

a- To write down the required information on (something, such as a check).
Example: “Who shall I make the check out to?”

b- To hear and understand (something)
Example: “I can’t make out what you’re saying, can you speak louder?”

c- To kiss and touch for a long time in a sexual way.
Example: “We made out in the back of his car”

19. Pass out

a- To fall asleep or become unconscious.
Example: “Lisa was so tired, she got home and passed out on the sofa”

b- to give (something) to several or many people.
Example: “I passed out leaflets with information on our course”

20. Pull over

a- To move a vehicle to the side of the road and stop.
Example: “That looks like a lovely restaurant, can you pull the car over and park?”

21. Put down

a- To place (someone or something that you have been holding or carrying) on a table, on the floor, etc.
Example: “You can put the suitcases down in the bedroom”

b- To write (something) : to record (something) in writing
Example: “He put down his memories to write a book when he was older”

c- To give (an amount of money) as a first payment when you are buying something that costs a lot of money
Example: “My husband and I are going to put down some money to buy that house in the centre of town”

d- To kill (an animal) in a way that causes it little pain usually because it is injured or sick
Example: “Jessica had to have her rabbit put down; it was very sick”

22. Put off

a- To decide that (something) will happen at a later time : postpone.
Example: “Graham was so tired he put the shopping off until next week”

b- To cause (someone) to dislike someone or something
Example: “You’re putting me off my food, stop talking about insects!”

23. Put up with

a- To allow (someone or something unpleasant or annoying) to exist or happen.
Example: “My mother won’t put up with my sisters or I swearing”

24. Turn up

a- To be found usually unexpectedly.
Example: “Oh! My phone turned up in my bed!”

b- To arrive at a place
Example: “As always, Julian turned up late”

c- To increase the volume, temperature, etc., of something by pressing a button, moving a switch, etc.
Example: “Please turn the music up, I love this song!”

25. Watch out

a- To be aware of something dangerous.
Example: “Watch out in the mountain, there are bears there!”

 

Are there any phrasal verbs you think should also be on the list?

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About Kate

Kate
Kate is a teacher and ABA's Social Media Strategist. As well as being a lover of all things content and community, she has been teaching English for over 10 years and has taught in Cambodia, India and Spain.

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80 comments

  1. Kate, you really thought up a great collection of phrasal verbs. I think students should keep on using phrasal verbs in their English conversations. It’s great that students can always count on nice English learning sites like ABA English to help them pick up useful tips and brush up their English :)

  2. Hello….
    Is their any difference between England’s English, Australian English and American English. Please help.
    And also tell me can we make different sentences using any phrasal verb like blow up.I mean who many sentences can we make on one phrasal verb.

  3. Its so very helpfull, specialy in my studies
    Thanks for this information :-)

  4. Thanks!! I learnt alot from this wonderful post!! ( I am an English learner :) )

  5. it help me soooooooooooooooooo much thanksssssssss

  6. thankyou sooooooooooooooo much becoz tis helped in my exams..:) :D :P

  7. Thank you so much

  8. Thanks lots! your post really helps me to understand about phrasal verbs :)
    is all of phrasal verbs informal?

  9. 1.”which places have you been?” -this one is correct.
    2.”which places had you been?” -this one is wrong.

    Can you please tell me why the 2nd one is wrong. And suppose I visited Russia last year. Then what should I say ‘I have been in Russia last year’ or ‘I had been in Russia last year’.

    • Kate

      Hi San,

      We would say “What places have you been to?”.

      If you visited RUssian last year, you would say “I was in Russia last year” because it is a finished action in the past.

  10. OMG, I really loved this post!! I have never thought of teaching phrasal verbs this way… Thanks Kate

  11. Hello Kate,

    Next year I’ll be studying in England in high school.
    I was checking phrasal verbs but I don’t know what else
    to do to be prepared for next year.

    Thanks

    • Kate

      Hi,

      Thanks for your comment. Studying and memorising the phrasal verbs is very important. I hope you learn a lot in England and have a great experience. :-)

  12. I really helpful for me thank you :]

  13. Hi mam its rahul from india….please give some tips for competative english grammer..

  14. Kate, I am working on a paper/presentation, and I am wondering what source(s) you used to establish the “most useful” PVs, or if you and your experiences were the major sources.
    Thanks so much!

  15. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN IDIOMS AND PHRASAL VERB?

    • Kate

      Hi Ajit,

      Thanks for your question.

      Phrasal verbs are made up of a normal verb + preposition which then changes the meaning of the verb.
      Idioms on the other hand are set phrases in English which have a specific meaning and can’t normally be translated literally to other languages.

      Good luck! :-)

    • great job best blog

  16. Thanx a lot of u for your wonderful job.

  17. Mohamed swdaqathulla

    It is useful and very easy to understand.Thanks for this activity

  18. I found the list really helpful. Kate, Thank you for transferring your knowledge to us.

  19. it has given me immense knowledge otherwise i was nothing in english . i dont have the worlds to thanks you

  20. Hi… Myself Govind. I learned English from starting and always study in English medium school. But now l cant speak enlish or write. So please help me frnd

  21. Hello, i woul like to ask
    for this phrasal verb put up… is correct if i say: Can you put up all your toys and leave them on the box? or put up is just to say : put your hands up!!!

    • Kate

      Hello Paulina!
      In American English you can say “Can you put up all your toys and leave them IN the box?”, because it means to place something in a container or storage.
      If you want to be understood both by British and Americans, you could use “put away” instead.
      Hope it helps! ;)

  22. I would add “figure out” to the list of common phrasal verbs

  23. I am begiiners want to learn from very basics …….so plz help me MAM!!!!

  24. Kate You so beautiful, I felt in love with you in the first sight!.

  25. Hi! I’m Sanae, I’m from Morocco. I really liked this site , it’s very beneficial. I will try to memorize those phrasal verbs through puting each verb in a sentence . Thanks for everything. Go on

  26. Arvin (Indonesia)

    Hi Kate! My curiosity of most useful phrasal verbs brought me here. Yass! I ended up enjoying some other posts and having this site bookmarked in the end.
    Thank you so much for running this site. You’re so kind and I wish you all the joy in life! Please keep doing what you do; spreading love through helping other at being better with English like this.

    • Kate

      Wow Arvin! Those are really kind words of you!
      I really hope you’ll keep on following this blog (you can chek out our other social networks for more useful content)
      Wish you all the best too! :)

  27. Hi Kate
    I’m Mertcan from Turkiye.This website is so benefical to develop my vocabulary skills.I want to thank you for posts.Please keep going to share .

  28. Can you please tell me a phrasal verb which means no longer useful

    • Kate

      Hi Anusha,

      Thanks for your question. A phrasal verb which means that something is no longer useful or no longer functions well could be “to wear out”. For example: “The jacket is worn out”.

  29. I also teach ESL, I was very surprised while I was making a list of phrasal verbs for my students, how many of them use ‘up’. Seems optimistic!

    • Kate

      Hi John,

      Yes, there definitely are a lot of phrasal verbs which which use “up”. Good luck to your students in their studies.

  30. Hey Kate,
    I think, you have a zeal to share the things with all among from your best & I would also like to be in contact with you like persons forever….
    It is nice experience to read your phrasal verbs and would must try to entirely put up these all.

    Thanks

  31. Lovely
    no PDF??

    • Kate

      Hi Laure,

      Thanks for your comment. You could copy the text and save it in a word document so that you have a copy of it on your computer to refer to in future. :-)

  32. Hi Kate, I love your post, but I have a question about the methodology. How do you know these are the 25 most useful phrasal verbs?

    • Kate

      Hi,

      Thanks for your question! These phrasal verbs are used on a very regular basis and have many different contexts making them very useful indeed.

      Good luck with them. ;-)

  33. Really wonderful collections. Love your efforts. Carry on! Just carry on! One day i’ll be a very good writer :)

  34. Thank you very much I ll use it in my daily conversation until pass away.

  35. awesome just wish it were easier to print, some of my students don’t have internet access in their communities

    • Kate

      Hi Jorge,

      Thanks for your feedback. Why don’t you copy and paste it into a word document for your students?

      Thanks

  36. Hi Kate..this curation of yours is and will remain so very useful to non-native speakers and for their posterity. Currently, I am getting along well with Phrasal Verbs. Thanks to your post. I am looking forward to following you up on twitter. Now being so obsessed with your style of writing, I guess now I have the prerogative to ask you for more. Please post a new write-up on the “Top 25 Idioms”. Hope you will carry on your beautiful work for many many years. With great regards, I am Rahul Verma from India.

    • George Talbot

      Hi Rahul,

      Thank you very much for your comment. Keep an eye on the blog in the near future for more posts on phrasal verbs :-)

  37. thanks for the phrasal verb it really helped in my assignme

  38. Thank you soooo much! Since I was a young woman I have tried to learn English. Today, as a 55 years-old woman and having become american citizen I finally found an English course that fit me like never before. I’d like also to become a good registered nurse ang get involved in medical field, so I really thank to ABA for its help. God bless you all.

    • George Talbot

      Hey,

      Thanks for your comment. Everyone at ABA is glad that this course has really helped you and has been great for your needs. Keep up the good work and good luck with your studies in the medical field :-)

  39. Thank you guys for your effort. I have a question, Turn up and Show up are they the same?

    • George Talbot

      Hi Yakup,

      Thanks very much for your question. In the sense of “arriving” then they mean the same. They also have other meanings.

      Turn up can also mean “to increase” and show up can also mean “to appear”.

      Thanks again :-)

  40. hi, can i more exercise on phrasal verbs to make my high school students practice like if is say it is dark, their response using phrasal verb would be -turn on lights

  41. It is a wonderful blog for high schoolers. They get on with English very well on this blog.

  42. Kate

    Thank you very much! :) I hope they are getting better at English then!

  43. Thanks for the great effort sweetheart, but could put these phrasal verbs in a text? I think It’s also a great way to remember them :* *hugs and kisses * : )

  44. George Talbot

    Hi Soran,

    There are example sentences with the use of each phrasal verb below them in the blog post. If you would like another example for a particular phrasal verb, let us know :-)

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