Phrasal verbs are most English learners’ worst nightmare. Unfortunately they are so commonly used in English by fluent speakers that you’ll hear them several times in a conversation. And that’s the same for communication with proficient English speakers in a business setting. You can’t escape them!

What are phrasal verbs?

Phrasal verbs are verbs used with another word (an adverb or preposition) to create a commonly used phrase.

Phrasal verbs are idiomatic — you can’t guess the meaning of a phrasal verb by interpreting each of the words it contains literally. For example, if you say, “I’ll look into the mirror,” you are going to direct your sight to a mirror. In this case, look into is not a phrasal verb; it’s simply a verb followed by a preposition. On the other hand, if you say, “I don’t know what phrasal verbs are, but I’ll look into it,” you are not directing your sight into phrasal verbs—you are going to find out more about them. (Source: Grammarly)

How to learn and remember phrasal verbs?

My clients often ask me how best they should learn phrasal verbs and I categorically tell them that memorising a list of phrasal verbs outof context is a big NO!

What is far more effective is to learn them in context, in other words, in the different settings you find them. If the setting is familiar, the phrasal verb will be easier to understand and remember.

I prefer to teach phrasal verbs under different topics.This does three things: (1) it shows you that phrasal verbs are a normal part of English, (2) it ensures you don’t get overwhelmed by too many phrasal verbs at once, and (3) it gives you practice using phrasal verbs in the correct context.

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Let’s take a look at a business meeting over coffee

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Imagine the scene. You’ve arranged to meet a good client of yours. Instead of meeting at their offices, you’ve decided to meet for a coffee at a nearby cafe’.

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Here’s what happens:
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Tony: Hello Jack. Sorry for being so late. Have you been waiting long?
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Jack: Not too long. About half an hour.
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Tony: Oh I am so sorry about that. I was just walking out of the door when I was called in  (asked to do something) by my boss who wanted to introduce me to a long-standing client of the firm’s.
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Jack: No problem at all. It gave me a chance to catch up with (do something that should be donemy emails. What would you like? An espresso, cappuccino or latte?
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Tony: I think I’ll have a cappuccino.
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Jack: That’ll be one cappuccino and an espresso macchiato for me, thanks.
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Jack: So, how’s it going?
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Tony: Oh you know, same old, same old….
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Jack: How do you mean?
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Tony: Well, you know we’re working on this new rail project? Well, we’ve been putting in (give) hours and hours of work and we don’t seem to be getting anywhere.
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Jack: In what way, you’re not getting anywhere?
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Tony: The other side are insisting on double pay at the weekends for their employees and they simply won’t give up (abandon) their demands.
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Jack: And that’s something that’s unacceptable for your clients?
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Tony: Oh yes, they will not give in (surrender) to bully tactics. Anyway, I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s change the subject. By the way, did you pick up (receive) the message I left you about the Deighton case?
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Jack: Yes, I did. I’m sorry I meant to get back to (reply) you.
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Tony: Well, what do you think? Do you think we could work something out (agree)?
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Jack: In terms of what exactly?
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Tony: Well, in terms of whether your firm would be prepared to step in (take their place) should we need?
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Jack: I can’t see that it would be a problem but I’ll need to run this by (tell) my managing partner.
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Tony: If you could do that sooner rather than later, I’d appreciate it.
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Jack: I’ll see what I can do.
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Tony: Great. Now you set this meeting up (arranged) so what can I do for you?
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Jack: Well, I was wondering if you could put in a good word for me (say something positive) at the next AGM?
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Tony: Of course, I could. After all, what are good friends for if we can’t stick up for (support) each other.
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Jack: Oh,  thanks so much. I really didn’t know who I could turn to (get help).
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Tony: You can always count on (depend on) me.
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Jack: You’re not only a great client, you’re a real friend.
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Hopefully by putting the phrasal verbs in context you begin to understand more clearly their meaning. Next time you’re reading in English, look out for the phrasal verbs and try and work out their meaning in context.
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Good luck and ciao for now.
Shanthi