Phrasal Verbs


May, 2019

Phrasal verbs are considered by many as one of the hardest things about the English language. A phrasal verb is, as the name suggests, a verb made up of a two or three words. Typically, there is a verb plus a preposition and/or an adverb.

What makes phrasal verbs so difficult is the fact that you often can’t make a guess of the meaning from the constituent words. Take “make up” for example, one might initially think of a beauty context, but there are three main meanings and none relate to that!

  •  Invent or create a story –  “He made up a story about his dog eating his homework.”
  • to compensate for someone or something  – “Can you do my shift tomorrow?  I’ll make it up to you next week.”, or  “I’m taking my son to the water park to make up for missing his birthday.”
  • to be friends again – “The girls made up after their argument.”


Phrasal verbs can be transitive or intransitive which means that they can take an object. On top of that some are separable, while others are inseparable meaning that an object can be placed in the middle of the phrasal verb or not, respectively.

Below is a short story with 21 phrasal verbs used in a home and business setting. See if you can identify the meaning of each and which phrasal verbs are transitive or intransitive, separable or inseparable. At the bottom of the page you will find the definitions of all the phrasal verbs used.


“Phrasal verbs are considered by many as one of the hardest things about the English language..”

Phrasal Verbs- A Story

I had to be at work early, so I dropped my kids off at school, but had to deal with them arguing in the back of the car. I told Oscar he had to look up to his big sister and listen to her as she could teach him many things.

Once at the office, I had to look for a parking space, which is not always easy. I have just taken over a new department at work, so I have been unable to cut down on my working hours. I dropped in to my old office to see an former colleague, but he was about to start a presentation. I did not want to hold him up, so I asked him to think through the proposal that I had made last week. I pointed out that as I now had to manage a new department, he would need someone to fill in for me. He said he would look into finding someone.

In my lunchtime meeting, I brought up the latest sales figures with my team. I asked my sales manager to break down all our expenses and to explain the drop off in sales. He clearly spelled out the reason for the decrease. At the end of the meeting, one of my staff asked if the 4pm meeting had been put off till later. I explained it had been called off due to our boss being sick.

After I got home that night, we sat down to eat dinner as a family. We have cut meat out of our diet, so we ate vegetarian lasagna. Afterwards, I asked Ella to do the dishes, but she tried to turn me down, so I said everyone had to chip in. Eventually, I made it to bed at 11pm.

1. Deal with
Meaning: To handle, work on

2. Take over
Meaning: To get control or responsibility for something

3. Look into
Meaning: To investigate, learn more about

4. Look up to
Meaning: To respect

5. Look for
Meaning: To search

6. Drop in
Meaning: To make an unexpected visit

7. Drop off (1)
Meaning: A sharp decrease

8. Drop off (2)
Meaning: To deliver someone or something

9. Fill in
Meaning: To do a job or hold a position temporarily

10. Bring up
Meaning: To say or introduce a topic or issue

11. Break down
Meaning: To explain something or divide something into parts

12. Hold up
Meaning: To cause a delay

13. Turn down
Meaning: To handle, work on

14. Think through
Meaning: To consider carefully and thoroughly

15. Spell out
Meaning: To say something in a simple way

16. Point out
Meaning: To indicate or show something

17. Cut down
Meaning: To reduce, make something less

18. Cut out
Meaning: To completely remove or erase

19. Call off
Meaning: To cancel

20. Chip in
Meaning: To give some help

21. Put off
Type: Separable, transitive
Meaning: To postpone, delay


 That does it for our phrasal verb blog post, if you want to know more or learn how to teach English, please get in touch!



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