Phrasal verbs: which ones are the most common?


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Phrasal verbs are, for sure, the subject most student dislike from English. According to Cambridge Phrasal Verbs Dictionary, there are around 6,000 and each of them has a different meaning. However, we do not need to know all of them and that is why we prepared the following list for you.

The phrasal verbs you will find here are definitely the most useful ones. They might seem to be a lot, but if you use them, you will improve not only your written skills, but also your ability to understand (and follow) conversations. Are you ready?

What is a phrasal verb?

A phrasal verb is a two-or-more-word-formula that is made up of a verb and another word or two, which is usually a preposition or an adverb. These words alone have a meaning that usually changes when we put them together.

And that is, certainly, the most interesting thing of a phrasal verb: the ability of having different meanings.

Moreover, it is important to add that there are different types of phrasal verbs:

  1. Intransitive Phrasal Verbs: the ones with no direct object.
  2. Transitive Phrasal Verbs: the ones with a direct object.
    1. Separable Phrasal Verbs: When we can put the direct object in the middle of the two words.
    2. Inseparable Phrasal Verbs: When we cannot separate them.

Key phrasal verbs

Now that we already know what we are talking about, let’s go through a list with the most useful phrasal verbs and some examples that will help you understand their meaning better:

Transitive and separable phrasal verbs

  1. blow up: Let’s blow up the balloons for the party.
  2. bring up: The most difficult work for parents is bringing up children nowadays.
  3. call off: We had to call the meeting off.
  4. do over: The teacher told us to do our homework over.
  5. fill out: Fill out this application form to talk part in the course.
  6. fill up: They have to fill up the cups because they are empty.
  7. find out: My mother found out that dad had been planning a surprise party for her.
  8. give away: This actor decided to give away a large amount of his fortune.
  9. give back: I lent my friend a pen and he just gave it back to me.
  10. look over: Shall we look over the files again? I think there is a mistake.
  11. look up: If you are not sure of the meaning of this word, you should look it up in the dictionary.
  12. make up: Is that a real story, or are you making it up?
  13. make out: Can you repeat what you’re saying? I just can’t make it out.
  14. pick out: You need to pick out the colour that you like for your dress.
  15. pick up: I will pick my brother up from the airport when he arrives.
  16. point out: He pointed out his house so that we knew where he lived.
  17. put away: Paul’s bedroom was such a mess that his father had to tell him to put his things away.
  18. put on: In summer, I like to put on my shorts.
  19. read over: The teacher told us to read over the lesson and correct our mistakes.
  20. set up: They set up the furniture in their new house and it looks really trendy now.
  21. take down: We should take down the paintings before we paint the walls.
  22. take off: Before taking a shower, we always take off our clothes.
  23. talk over: Let’s talk over the important points before the meeting.
  24. throw away: I would like to be able to decide what to keep and what to throw away.
  25. try on: The bride tried on her wedding dress.
  26. try out: I tried out different cars before I could find the best for me.
  27. turn down: Every night we have to turn down the music.
  28. turn up: When I like the song, I turn up the radio.
  29. turn off: We turned off the lights so that no one could see us.
  30. turn on: We turned the television on to watch the movie.

Transitive and inseparable phrasal verbs

  1. call on: I am going to call on a friend in Paris.
  2. get over: Don’t worry, you will get over your broken heart soon.
  3. go over: Did you go over your report to correct your mistakes?
  4. go through: We have been going through a bad time recently at home.
  5. look after: Grandparents usually look after their grandchildren.
  6. look into: The police will look into it and they will tell us something as soon as possible.
  7. run across: We were walking around the old town when we suddenly run across them.
  8. run into: Sarah ran into her boss in the hallway.
  9. take after: I wonder who I take after more: my mother or my father.
  10. wait on: It seemed strange to see my old boss wait on tables.

Intransitive phrasal verbs

  1. break down: The car has broken down again. It’s the second time this week.
  2. catch on: She’s still catching on after her sick leave.
  3. come back: He left one week ago and he will come back tomorrow morning.
  4. come in: They are trying to come in through the back door but it is closed.
  5. come to: I have come to understand that everything happens for a reason.
  6. come over: Why don’t you come over for lunch this weekend?
  7. drop by: Drop by anytime you want, we are always at home.
  8. eat out: What we like about travelling is eating out in new restaurants.
  9. get by: Even if he doesn’t speak perfect English, he gets by and is able to communicate.
  10. get up: Every morning I get up at 7 o’clock.
  11. go back: I am sure I will go back to Paris soon.
  12. go on: The teacher heard a noise and she wanted to know what was going on.
  13. grow up: They grew up so quickly I didn’t even notice.
  14. keep on: She tried to keep on dancing even if her leg was broken.
  15. pass out: Every time he sees blood, he passes out.

Now that you have this long list of phrasal verbs, try to use them day by day. You will surely learn them by heart and never forget them.

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