Phrasal Verbs – an introduction


Phrasal verbs (or more accurately multi-word verbs) are two or three word verbs made up of a verb + one or two particles (preposition or adverb). They can be confusing for non-native speakers because:

  1. There are so many of them and so many phrasal verbs that start with the same verb e.g. get.
  2. This means it can be really difficult to remember the difference between, for example, get on, get over, get round to, get together and so on.
  3. Phrasal verbs can be transitive meaning they need a direct object or intransitive (no direct object)
  4. Some phrasal verbs can be broken up so that the object goes in the middle, e.g. take it off, while others can’t. For example you can get on with someone but you can’t get someone on with.
  5. And finally, some phrasal verbs have two of three very different meanings e.g make up.


Remembering the meaning and grammar of phrasal verbs takes practice and dedication. Whenever you stumble upon a new one, look it up, write it down and then try to use it yourself as soon and as often as possible.

Check out for a detailed grammar summary plus a list of 200 of some of the most popular phrasal verbs, with definitions and example sentences. Print the list out and then add to it in the same way as you come across more.

And if you didn’t know the meaning of any of the phrasal verbs in this article you can look them up below:

break something up divide something into pieces The company has been broken up and sold off
made up of something consist or be composed of something The board is made up of five members
get on something step onto a vehicle We’re going to freeze out here if you don’t let us get on the bus.
get over something (1) recover from an illness or loss difficulty I just got over the flu and now my sister has it.
get over something (2) overcome a problem The company will have to close if it can’t get over the new regulations.
get round to something finally find time to do (AmE: get around to something) I don’t know when I am going to get round to writing the thank you cards.
get together meet (usually for social reasons) Let’s get together for a BBQ this weekend.
take something off remove something (usually clothing) Take off your socks and shoes and come in the lake!
get along/on like each other I was surprised how well my new girlfriend and my sister got along/on.
make up (1) forgive each other We were angry last night, but we made up at breakfast.
make someone up (1) apply cosmetics to My sisters made me up for my graduation party.
make something up (1) invent, lie about something Josie made up a story about why we were late.
stumble across/on/upon discover something by chance I stumbled upon this great shop when I was looking for the library.
look something up search and find information in a reference book or database We can look her phone number up on the Internet.
write something down write something on a piece of paper so you don’t forget it Did you write down Jo’s phone number?
check something out look at carefully, investigate The company checks out all new employees.
print something out produce a printed copy of a document that has been written on a computer Could you print out a copy of that letter for me.
come across something find unexpectedly I came across these old photos when I was tidying the closet.

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