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200 Common phrasal verbs with meanings and example sentences


Phrasal verbs are an important part of learning the English language. Most phrasal verbs consist of two words (verb + adverb or verb + preposition) but a few consists of three words. Think of them as you would any other English vocabulary. Study them as you come across them, rather than trying to memorise many at once.
You can use the list below as a reference guide when you find an expression that you don’t recognise. The examples will help you understand the meanings. Like many other verbs, phrasal verbs often have more than one meaning.

200 phrasal verbs with meanings

Phrasal VerbMeaningExample
Act onTo take action because of something like information received.The police were ACTING ON a tip from an informer and caught the gang red-handed.
Act outPerform something with actions and gestures..They ACTED OUT the story on stage.
Act upBehave badly or strangely.My computer’s ACTING UP; I think I might have a virus.
Add onInclude in a calculation.You have to ADD the VAT ON to the price they give.
Add upTo make a mathematical total.We ADDED UP the bill to check it was correct.
Agree withAffect- usually used in the negative to show that something has had a negative effect, especially is it makes you feel bad.I feel terrible- that food didn’t AGREE WITH my stomach.
Aim atTo target.The magazine is AIMED AT teenagers.
Allow forInclude something in a plan or calculation.You should ALLOW FOR delays when planning a journey.
Allow ofMake possible, permit.The rules don’t ALLOW OF any exceptions.
Angle forTry to get something indirectly, by hinting or suggesting.He’s been ANGLING FOR an invitation, but I don’t want him to come.
Answer backTo reply rudely to someone in authority.Her mother was shocked when she started ANSWERING her BACK and refusing to help.
Argue downBeat someone in a debate, discussion or argument.The teacher tried to ARGUE the girl DOWN, but she couldn’t.
Argue downPersuade someone to drop the price of something they’re selling.She ARGUED him DOWN ten percent.
Argue outArgue about a problem to find a solution.If we can’t ARGUE our differences OUT, we’ll have to take them to court.
Ask aboutAsk how someone is doing, especially professionally and in terms of health.He ASKED ABOUT my father.
Ask afterEnquire about someone’s health, how life is going.Jenny rang earlier and ASKED AFTER you, so I told her you were fine.
Ask aroundAsk a number of people for information of help.I have no idea, but I’ll ASK AROUND at work and see if anyone can help.
Ask inTo invite somebody into your house.Jon’s at the door.’ ‘ASK him IN.’
Ask outTo invite someone for a date.He wanted to ASK her OUT but was too shy.
Ask overInvite.They have ASKED us OVER for drinks on Friday.
Ask roundInvite someone.We ASKED John ROUND for diner.
Auction offSell something in an auction.They AUCTIONED OFF their property as they were heavily in debt.
Back awayRetreat or go backwards.The crowd BACKED AWAY when the man pulled a knife.
Back downRetract or withdraw your position or proposal in an argument.She refused to BACK DOWN and was fired.
Back intoEnter a parking area in reverse gear.He prefers to BACK his car INTO the garage.
Back offRetreat.The police told the protesters to BACK OFF.
Back outFail to keep an arrangement or promise.He BACKED OUT two days before the holiday so we gave the ticket to his sister
Back out ofFail to keep an agreement, arrangement.She BACKED OUT OF the agreement at the last minute.
Back upMake a copy of computer data.You should always BACK UP important files and documents so that you won’t lose all your work if something goes wrong with the hardware.
Bag outCriticise.Don’t bag out BAG OUT Australian English.
Ball upConfuse or make things complicated.The new project has BALLED me UP- I have no idea what to do.
Bargain downPersuade someone to drop the price of something they’re selling.I BARGAINED her DOWN to half what she originally wanted.
Bash aboutMistreat physically.If you BASH your monitor ABOUT like that, it won’t last long.
Bash inBreak, damage or injure by hitting.The burglars BASHED the door IN to enter the house.
Bash outWrite something quickly without much preparation.I BASHED the essay OUT the night before I had to hand it in.
Be afterTry to find or get.The police ARE AFTER him because of the theft.
Be alongArrive.The next bus should BE ALONG in the next quarter of an hour or so.
Be awayBe elsewhere; on holiday, etc..She’s AWAY on business for three weeks.
Be cut out forBe suitable, have the necessary qualities.She’s not CUT OUT FOR this kind of work.
Be cut upBe upset.She was very CUT UP about coming second as she thought she deserved to win.
Be downBe depressed.He’s BEEN DOWN since his partner left him.
Be fed upBe bored, upset or sick of something.I AM FED UP of his complaints.
Be taken withLike something.I WAS very TAKEN WITH the performance- it was superb.
Be upBe out of bed.She’s not UP yet.
Bear down onMove towards.She spotted him on the other side of the room and BORE DOWN ON him.
Bear onInfluence, affect.The judge’s character may well BEAR ON the final decision.
Bear outConfirm that something is correct.Statistics BEAR OUT the government’s positions on the issue.
Bear upResist pressure.How are you BEARING UP under the strain?
Bear up underCope with something difficult or stressful.He’s BEARING UP UNDER the pressure.
Bear withBe patient.Please BEAR WITH me a moment while I finish this email.
Beat downStrong sunshine.The sun WAS really BEATING DOWN and we couldn’t stay outdoors.
Beat outNarrowly win in competition.The marathon runner barely BEAT OUT his rival at the tape.
Beat upAttack violently.The mugger BEAT him UP and stole his wallet.
Belong withBe in the correct or appropriate location with other items.Does this disc BELONG WITH those on the shelf?
Bend downLower the top half of your body.I BENT DOWN to pick it up off the floor.
Big upExaggerate the importance.He BIGS himself UP all the time.
Bitch upSpoil or ruin something.I BITCHED UP the interview.
Black outFall unconscious.He BLACKED OUT and collapsed on the floor.
Blast offLeave the ground- spaceship or rocket.The space shuttle BLASTED OFF on schedule yesterday.
Block inPark a car and obstruct another car.I couldn’t drive here this morning because someone had BLOCKED me IN.
Block offObstruct an exit to prevent people from leaving.The police BLOCKED OFF the road after the murder.
Blow awayImpress greatly.Her first novel BLEW me AWAY.
Blow downWhen the wind forces something to fall.A tree was BLOWN DOWN in the storm.
Blow inArrive, sometimes suddenly or unexpectedly.He BLEW IN from Toronto early this morning.
Blow offNot keep an appointment.We were going to meet last night, but she BLEW me OFF at the last minute.
Blow upExplode.The bomb BLEW UP without any warning.
Boil upFeel a negative emotion strongly.The anger BOILED UP in me when I saw what they had done.
Bone up onStudy hard for a goal or reason.I need to BONE UP ON my French grammar for the test.
Book inCheck in at a hotel.WE took a taxi from the airport to the hotel and BOOKED IN.
Call upTelephone.I CALLED him UP as soon as I got to a phone to tell him the news.
Calm downStop being angry or emotionally excited.When I lose my temper, it takes ages for me to CALM DOWN again.
Cancel outHave an opposite effect on something that has happened, taking things back to the beginning.The airport taxes CANCELLED OUT the savings we had made on the flight tickets.
Cap offFinish or complete, often with some decisive action.She CAPPED OFF the meeting with a radical proposal.
Care forLike.I don’t CARE FOR fizzy drinks; I prefer water.
Carried awayGet so emotional that you lose control.The team got CARRIED AWAY when they won the championship and started shouting and throwing things around.
Carry forwardMake something progress.They hope the new management will be able to CARRY the project FORWARD.
Carry offWin, succeed.She CARRIED OFF the first prize in the competition.
Carry onContinue.CARRY ON quietly with your work until the substitute teacher arrives.
Decide uponChoose, select.Jane spent a long time looking at houses before she bought one, but eventually DECIDED UPON one near her office.
Die awayBecome quieter or inaudible (of a sound).The last notes DIED AWAY and the audience burst into applause.
Die backWhen the parts of a plant above ground die, but the roots remain alive.The plant DIES BACK in the winter.
Die downDecrease or become quieter.It was on the front pages of all the papers for a few days, but the interest gradually DIED DOWN.
Die forWant something a lot.I’m DYING FOR the weekend- this week’s been so hard.
Die offBecome extinct.Most of the elm trees in the UK DIED OFF when Dutch elm disease arrived.
Die outBecome extinct or disappear.Some scientists say that the dinosaurs DIED OUT when a comet hit the earth and caused a nuclear winter.
Dig inStart eating greedily.We were starving so we really DUG IN when the food finally did arrive.
Dig intoReach inside to get something.She DUG INTO her handbag and pulled out a bunch of keys.
Fawn overPraise someone in an excessive way to get their favour or something from them.She FAWNED OVER the inspectors in the hope that they would give her a good grade.
Feed offEat a food as part of an animals diet.The gecko FEEDS OFF mosquitoes and other insects.
Feed onGive someone a particular food.He FEEDS his cat ON dry food.
Feed upGive someone a lot of food to restore their health, make them bigger, etc.She’s been ill for a fortnight so we’re FEEDING her UP.
Feel upTouch sexually, grope.Someone FELT me UP in the club as I was trying to get to the bar.
Feel up toFeel capable of doing something.I’m so tired. I don’t think I FEEL UP TO going out tonight.
Get aheadProgress.Nowadays, you need IT skills if you want to GET AHEAD.
Get ahead ofMove in front of.I work at home in the evening to GET AHEAD OF schedule.
Get alongLeave.It’s late; we must be GETTING ALONG.
Give upStop doing something that has been a habit.I GAVE UP taking sugar in tea and coffee to lose weight.
Hit onHave an idea.I suddenly HIT ON the solution
Hold offStop someone from attacking or beating you.Chelsea couldn’t HOLD their opponents OFF and lost the game.
Hold onWait.Could you HOLD ON for a minute; she’ll be free in a moment.
Hook upMeet someone.We HOOKED UP at the conference.
Hunt outSearch until you find something.It took me ages to HUNT OUT the photos.
Jack upIncrease sharply.They have JACKED UP the price of oil this month.
Jam onApply or operate something forcefully.Jack JAMMED ON the brakes when the rabbit ran in front of his car.
Jaw awayTalk just for the point of talking rather than having anything to say.That shows that your interest is not in helping the student, but in JAWING AWAY.
Jazz upMake something more interesting or attractive.The show was getting stale so they JAZZED it UP with some new scenes.
Keep aroundKeep something near you.I KEEP a dictionary AROUND when I’m doing my homework.
Keep atContinue with something difficult.She found the course hard but she KEPT AT it and completed it successfully.
Keep awayDon’t allow someone near something.Medicines should always be KEPT AWAY from children.
Keep backMaintain a safe distance.The police told the crowd to KEEP BACK from the fire.
Key toPlan things to fit or suit people or situations.Promotions are KEYED TO people’s abilities.
Key upMake someone excited or nervous.The noise got us KEYED UP.
Kick aboutDiscuss.We KICKED the idea ABOUT at the meeting.
Kick inWhen a drug starts to take effect.Her hayfever didn’t feel half as bad once the antihistamines had KICKED IN.
Kick outExpel.The family KICKED the au pair OUT when they found out that she was planning to move to work for another household.
Knock offFinish work for the day.We KNOCKED OFF early on Friday to avoid the rush hour queues.
Lash downSecure something with ropes or cords.We LASHED the tarpaulin DOWN to stop the wind blowing it away.
Lash intoCriticise someone strongly.He LASHED INTO them for messing thins up.
Lash outSuddenly become violent.He LASHED OUT and broke the man’s nose.
Lay onOrganise, supply.They LAID ON a buffet lunch at the conference.
Lay outSpend money.They LAID OUT thousands of pounds on their wedding reception.
Let inAllow someone to enter.The doorstaff didn’t LET him IN the nightclub because he was wearing jeans.
Let offNot punish.The judge LET him OFF with a fine rather than a prison sentence since it was his first offence.
Line upArrange events for someone.We have LINED UP a lot of meetings for them.
Link upConnect, join.The train LINKS UP the cities.
Live byFollow a belief system to guide your behaviour.He tries hard to LIVE BY the Bible.
Live downStop being embarrassed about something.If I fail the test and everyone else passes, I’ll never be able to LIVE it DOWN.
Live withAccept something unpleasant.It’s hard to LIVE WITH the pain of a serious illness.
Log inEnter a restricted area on a computer system.I had forgotten my password and couldn’t LOG IN.
Log intoEnter a restricted area of a computer system.I LOGGED INTO the staff intranet to check my email.
Log offExit a computer system.When she’d finished working on the spreadsheet, she LOGGED OFF and left the office.
Log onEnter a computer system.He entered his password for the college intranet and LOGGED ON.
Log outExit a computer system.Danny closed the programs and LOGGED OUT when it was time to go home.
Look upConsult a reference work (dictionary, phonebook, etc.) for a specific piece of information..I didn’t know the correct spelling so I had to LOOK it UP in the dictionary.
Magic awayMake something disappear quickly.He MAGICKED the bill AWAY and paid for us all before I could get my wallet out.
Make afterChase.The police MADE AFTER the stolen car.
Make away withSteal.The thieves MADE AWAY WITH the painting.
Make itArrive or get a result.I thought you weren’t coming, so I was really pleased you MADE IT.
Make it up toTry to compensate for doing something wrong.He tried to MAKE IT UP TO her, but she wouldn’t speak to him.
Make ofUnderstand or have an opinion.What do you MAKE OF your new boss?
Make offLeave somewhere in a hurry.They MADE OFF when they heard the police siren.
Mash upMix sources of audio, video or other computer sources..She MASHED UP the songs into a single track.
Melt downHeat something solid, especially metal, until it becomes liquid.They MELTED the gold statue DOWN and turned it into gold bars.
Mess aboutNot be serious, not use something properly.The children were MESSING ABOUT with the TV remote control and broke it.
Mix upConfuse.I always MIX those two sisters UP because they look so like each other.
Move intoStart living in a place.They MOVED INTO the house as soon as it was ready.
Move upMove to make space.Could you MOVE UP and let me sit down?
Nail downSucceed in getting, achieve.They are having trouble NAILING DOWN the contract.
Name afterGive someone a name to remember another person.I was NAMED AFTER my uncle who died in the war.
Narrow downRemove less important options to make it easier to choose.I am not sure which university to apply to, but I have NARROWED my list DOWN to three.
Nerd outPlay safe and avoid taking a risk.I’m going to NERD OUT and not go on the river trip.
Opt forChoose.I OPTED FOR an endowment mortgage and lost a lot of money.
Opt inChoose to be part or a member of something.If you want them to notify you of updates, you have to OPT IN.
Opt intoChoose to be a member or part of something.I OPTED INTO the scheme.
Opt outChoose not to be part of something.The UK OPTED OUT of a lot of EU legislation on working hours and conditions.
Pack inStop doing something.I’m trying to PACK IN smoking.
Pack offSend someone away.His boss PACKED him OFF to a regional office.
Pack outFill a venue.The stadium was PACKED OUT.
Pack upStop doing something.You should PACK UP smoking.
Pad downSleep somewhere for the night.I’m too tired to come home; can I PAD DOWN here tonight?
Pad outMake a text longer by including extra content, often content that isn’t particularly relevant.I couldn’t think of much to write, so I PADDED the essay OUT with a few lengthy quotes.
Pal aroundBe friendly and spend time with someone.We PALLED AROUND at university.
Pal upBecome friends.We PALLED UP when I started working with her.
Pass awayDie.Sadly, Georgia’s uncle PASSED AWAY yesterday after a short illness.
Pass backReturn.I felt awful when the teacher started to PASS BACK the exam papers.
Pass byGo past without stopping.I was just PASSING BY when I saw the accident.
Patch upFix or make things better.I tried to PATCH things UP after the argument, but they wouldn’t speak to me.
Pay backRepay money borrowed.I PAID BACK the twenty pounds I’d borrowed.
Pay offProduce a profitable or successful result.Their patience PAID OFF when he finally showed up and signed the contract.
Peel awayLeave a group by moving in a different direction.Some of the crowd PEELED AWAY to get out of the crush.
Peg outPut washing outside to dry.I PEGGED the washing OUT after it stopped raining.
Phase inIntroduce gradually.They are PHASING IN the reforms over the next two years.
Phase outRemove gradually.They have introduced a compact edition of the newspaper and are PHASING OUT the broadsheet edition over the next few months.
Pick atEat unwillingly.I wasn’t very hungry so I just PICKED AT my food.
Pick upCollect.While you’re in town, can you PICK UP my trousers from the Dry Cleaner?
Pig outEat a lot.The food was great, so I really PIGGED OUT.
Pile upAccumulate.Work just keeps on PILING UP and I really can’t manage to get it all done.
Pin downDiscover exact details about something.The government can’t PIN DOWN where the leak came from.
Pin onAttach the blame to someone.The police tried to PIN the crime ON him.
Pin upFix something to a wall, or other vertical surface, with a pin.I PINNED the notice UP on the board
Pine awaySuffer physically because of grief, stress, worry, etc.He’s been PINING AWAY since his wife died and is a shadow of his former self.
Pipe downBe quiet (often as an imperative).The lecturer asked the students to PIPE DOWN and pay attention.
Pipe upTo speak, raise your voice.At first, no one answered, then finally someone PIPED UP.
Play alongPretend to agree or accept something in order to keep someone happy or to get more information.I disagreed with the idea but I had to PLAY ALONG because everyone else liked it.
Play aroundBe silly.The children were PLAYING AROUND and being annoying.
Play upBehave badly.The children PLAYED UP all evening and drove the babysitter mad.
Plug inConnect machines to the electricity supply.He PLUGGED the TV IN and turned it on full blast.
Plump downPut something in a place without taking care.He PLUMPED his bag DOWN and kicked his shoes off.
Plump forChoose.I PLUMPED FOR the steak frites.
Point outMake someone aware of something.He POINTED OUT that I only had two weeks to get the whole thing finished.
Poke aboutMove things around or search in a casual way to try to find something.I POKED ABOUT in my CD collection to see if I could find it.
Poke aroundMove things around or search in a casual way to try to find something.I POKED AROUND in my desk to see if the letter was there.
Polish offFinish, consume.She POLISHES OFF half a bottle of gin every night.
Polish upImprove something quickly.I need to POLISH UP my French before I go to Paris.
Pop inVisit for a short time.He POPPED IN for a coffee on his way home.
Pop offTalk loudly, complain.He’s always POPPING OFF when things don’t suit him.
Power upTurn a computer or electronic device on so that it is ready to use.I POWERED UP my laptop and started work.
Price upCharge more for something.In rural areas where they have a monopoly, some garages PRICE UP fuel because there’s nowhere else to buy it.
Pull aheadOvertake, move in front.The lorry was going slowly but we managed to PULL AHEAD.
Pull outMove into traffic.The traffic was so bad that it took me ages to PULL OUT.

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