15 Most Useful Phrasal Verbs


Another super infographic by Grammar.net showing what in their opinion are the 15 most useful phrasal verbs in English.

The English Language has many phrasal verbs that have different meanings depending on their context. Whilst they can cause a headache to language learners, they do give the language the richness and variety that makes the English Language so colourful.

Some of the phrasal verbs below have synonyms that I encourage all my clients to learn. For example, instead of using the phrasal verb “put off” I get them to try using ‘delay ‘or ‘postpone’. That way they expand their vocabulary enriching both their spoken and written language.

[Infographic provided by Grammar.net]

1. “Call off” –  to stop or cancel
a) ”call off the search”
b) “I called off today because I’m sick.”
c) “They called off the football match because of the weather forecast.

2. “Look up” – search for.
a) “I’ll go online and look up ‘phrasal verbs’.”
b)“Look me up the next time you’re in town.”

3. “Get away with”: escape blame/punishment.
a)“He sure got away with that”
b)“The crook got away with 50 dollars”.
c)”She is so spoilt. She gets away with murder” (used idiomatically)

4. “Pull through”often used in discussing health
a)”The surgery was rough, but he pulled through
b)“The victim of the dog attack pulled through with no lingering injuries”.

5. “Break up”this usually refers to relationships but it can also refer to fights
a)”Fred and Matilda are going to break up”–but variations can be used to show an emotional state. “When Matilda dumped Fred, he was pretty broken up about it.”
b)”The police were called to break up the fight at the pub”.

6. Blow out” it means a tire flattens while driving, it can also mean a lopsided sports score or to indicate anger.
a) ”Mel had a blowout on the way to work”
b)“It was a blowout; the Packers beat the Bears 24 to 3.”
c)“Ed broke Bob’s window, and Bob had a complete blowout when he saw it”.

7. “Give in/give up” – relent or surrender.
a)“She didn’t want to go, but the kids pestered her until she gave in.”
b)“The robber gave up when the cops cornered him.”

8. “Put up with” -endure
a)“Tom put up with many jokes when he rode his ostrich to work”.
b) Sally had to put up with many months of unpaid work before she was finally given a permanent contract.

9. “Look down on” – a person who feels superior to others is said to “look down on” them.
a)“Dog owners sometimes look down on cat owners, which is silly, because cat owners sometimes look down on dog owners.”

10. “Turn into” – to become something else. It is also used in driving.
a) ”Caterpillars turn into butterflies”
b)“After you pass the park, turn into the school parking lot”.

11. “Carry on”to continue. It can also be used when someone complains for a long time about something.
a)“After the incident, the workers carried on with their work.
b)”When he accidentally spilled red wine on her dress, she carried on about it for hours”.

12. “Look after” – attend to
a)”Babysitters look after children”
b) “Could you please look after my bags while I order at the bar?”

13. “Pass out” – faint
a) “During the Australian Open, many tennis players nearly passed out because of the extreme heat”.

14. “Put off” postpone or delay. It is also used to describe an aversion to something.
a) “He put off painting and cut the grass first.”
b) “We’ve had to put off the trip to Japan.”
c)“When I was a child I was forced to eat tapioca that I am completely put off by the sight of it”.

15. “Look forward to” anticipate.
a)“I look forward to meeting with you next week” ( verb +ing form)
b) “Kids always look forward to the holidays”.

Which of the phrasal verbs above do you find most useful? Do you know other phrasal verbs and their synonyms that you feel should be added to this list?

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Ciao for now



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44 thoughts on “15 Most Useful Phrasal Verbs”

  1. Hello, I teach English to French pupils (aged from 11 to about 15). Your infographics is very interesting, but even more interesting with your text and explanations.
    Thanks a lot for it.

  2. In British English “blow out”, as well as meaning a sudden puncture in your tyre, is also used to refer to a huge meal as in:
    “We went to that new pizzeria last week and had a complete blow out.”
    I have never heard it used in Britain in the contexts of anger or sports scores.

    1. I have to agree with you here, Basil.

      They must have an American English meaning. It was pointed out to me that blowout in these contexts is a noun and not a phrasal verb which I had noticed.

      I will create some examples with the term as a phrasal verb.

      Thanks for reading and commenting here.

  3. In number 13 (Pass Out) “During the Australian Open, many tennis players nearly passed out because of the extreme”.
    The sentence makes no actual sense. “….because of the extreme” what?

    By the way ‘pass out’ can also refer to people completing military service. police etc, as in a ‘Passing Out parade’

    1. Oops, thanks for letting me know, David. I shall edit that immediately. I must stop writing my blogs late at night!
      You’re right about “passing out” in relation to military service. Thank for adding this.

    1. You’re most welcome, Hayder. Just to let you know…I am a woman so while I love that you call me “master” Shanthi will do :-)

    1. I would say better English speakers rather than better English speaking people. You are already wonderful without speaking English. :-)

  4. Nice graphic.

    I guess students should be careful, say, that ‘give in’ and ‘give up’ are not so interchangeable.
    eg – “I gave up smoking.”
    — “Guess.” — “I have no idea, I give up, Tim. Tell me…”

    Here you wouldn’t say “I give in.”

    1. Yes, David.
      I think it all depends on the context. Your second sentence certainly would suggest that the two phrasal verbs could be used interchangeably.

  5. hello , i don’t understand the meaning of this statement:”“When Matilda dumped Fred, he was pretty broken up about it.” can you explain more for me? thanks for answering

    1. When someone is “broken up” as a result of the end of a relationship, it means they are extremely sad. The phrasal verb here is used figuratively.

  6. Hello mam, I really love the way you twist the difficulties in Enlgish so that even more illegible concepts can be made intelligible.Everything that was given explaination is phenomenal,particularly phrasal verbs what fascinated me the most.Still I was just wondering if I could get a bit more list of phrasal verbs.And I inquisitively like to hear how you would elaborate the difference among — litaral, idiomatic, figurative, metaphoric.

    Respects,hoping that zillions value this blog.

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