Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are one of the most confusing aspects of learning English.

There are two main things to remember about phrasal verbs. Those two things are different, but related:

1. There is almost always a single-word verb that means the same thing. For example, take the phrasal verb “to pay off.” It can also mean “to bribe.” Why not just use the more precise, single-word verb? That brings us to the second thing:

2. Phrasal verbs introduce imprecision into the language. After all, one of the uses of language is to be clear and to be understood, but one use is also to allow both parties to appear to agree, even though they don’t really agree. This requires imprecision and multiple meanings. Take “to pay off,” for example: it could mean “to bribe,” but it could also mean “to bring benefit or profit.”

That’s an important thing to remember about phrasal verbs: They often mean 2 or more very different things. The most common meanings are given here, but remember that they might mean something else, too. So, for example, phrasal verbs are popular in TV comedies, which often rely on the characters misunderstanding each other.

By the way, this is a list of the top phrasal verbs in English. If you are looking for a specific one, type it into the search box.

To look forward to something

Meaning: to happily expect something that is happening in the future

Examples:

He had worked hard and was looking forward to his retirement.

We look forward to your visit next week.

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.

To keep from

Meaning: to not do something, or to not tell someone something

Examples:

I couldn’t keep from eating all the food at the party.

I think he’s not telling me the whole story, I think he’s keeping something from me.

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.

To hold up

Meaning: to delay something or to rob something

Examples:

I’m sorry, I am late but I was held up in a meeting.

The bank was held up by the two criminals.

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.

To run into

Meaning: to experience something or meet somebody unexpectedly

Examples:

I’ve run into a problem with the project.

I ran into him on the street yesterday.

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.

To look on

Meaning: to watch something happen without taking part in it

Examples:

Look on the bright side – no one was badly hurt.

You go speak to the group. I will just stand in the corner and look on.

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.

To get back to something

Meaning: to respond to something or to resume doing something

Examples:

I will get back to you tomorrow. (I will respond to you tomorrow.)

That was a good meeting, but now I need to get back to work.

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.

To get up

Meaning: to wake up and get out of bed, or to stand up (like from a chair)

Examples:

Matt gets up at 5am. (Matt wakes up and gets out bed at 5am)

I need to get up from this chair. (I need to stand up)

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.

To look over

To examine or inspect something or someone.

Examples:

Can you look over this email and tell me what you think?

He looked over my application and said it looked fine.

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.

To let up

Phrasal verb: to let up

Definition: To become less strong or less intense.

Examples:

When the rain lets up, let’s go outside for a walk.
A good coach never lets up on pushing her athletes to excellence.

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.

To get through

  1. To understand a point of view or opinion.

Examples:

Nothing you say will get through to her when she’s angry.
D.A.R.E. is a drug resistance program that was created to get through to teenagers about the dangers of doing drugs.

  1. To finish an activity.

Examples:

Once I get through with my homework, I can play video games!
We have to read three chapters for class by tomorrow, and I haven’t even gotten through the first chapter.

  1. To make contact with someone.

Examples:

Where have you been? I’ve been trying to get through to you on your cell and office phone.
Due to the storm, no one could get through on their phones.

  1. To manage to pass.

Examples:

It is impossible to get through the crowd of people in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
How did the sparrow get through the window?

  1. When a law or proposal is passed or accepted.

Examples:

Getting a bill through Congress is a tedious process.
Cara and Sascha succeeded at getting their proposal through to the group of investors.

  1. To find comfort and support in a difficult ordeal or test.

Examples: The doctor got his students through their residency program successfully.
I don’t know how I got through that test. It was so hard!

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.

To run against somebody or something

Meaning:

to oppose somebody or something, usually, but not always, in an election

Examples:

Luck was really running against you yesterday!

Biden ran against Trump in the 2020 US election.

About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work in Istanbul, London, and Madrid for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.