Take it away! (Phrasal verbs that use ‘take’)

by Kate Woodford​​​​
Continuing with our occasional series on the subject of phrasal verbs, we look this week at ones formed with the verb ‘take’.

Phrasal verbs are extremely common in English. That is why teachers are so keen to teach them even to beginners. One of the first phrasal verbs that students of English learn is take off, meaning ‘to remove something, often a piece of clothing’:

I was hot so I took my jacket off.

Students also learn early on the aeroplane sense of the same phrasal verb, meaning ‘to begin to fly’:

Twenty minutes later, the plane took off.

Note that this sense is intransitive, meaning that it has no object.

Like many phrasal verbs, take off has several meanings. Another sense that is used a lot is ‘to spend time away from your work’:

I took three days off to move house.

This sense, like the ‘remove clothes’ sense is transitive, meaning that it needs an object.

A helpful feature of some very common ‘take’ phrasal verbs is that they use the verb with its most basic meaning, ‘to get and carry something with you when you go somewhere’. This means that it is easier to guess their meaning when you hear them for the first time. It is true for the useful phrasal verb take back, meaning ‘to return something that you have bought to a shop’:

If the sweater is too small he can always take it back and get a refund.

The same also applies to the phrasal verb take away, meaning ‘to remove something from a place’:

Someone needs to come and take the old bed away.

And finally, the phrasal verb take out, meaning ‘to go somewhere and do something with someone, usually paying for them’:

Our boss is taking us out for a meal to celebrate.

Other ‘take’ phrasal verbs have meanings that are not so easy to guess, but they are still very common and worth making an effort to learn. Here are a few:

If you take after an older person in your family, you are similar to them in some way:

Peter is very tall. He takes after his father.

If a person is taken in by someone else, they are tricked or deceived by them:

They took the victims’ bank details and promised to send them money. I can’t believe anyone was taken in by them!

At work, if you take over from someone else, you start being responsible for something that someone else did before:

Helen took over as manager last month.

If you take up a hobby or activity, you start doing it:

My brother has recently taken up cycling.

And finally, if you are wondering what the meaning is of take it away! in the title of this blog, it is used to tell someone to start to perform.

24 thoughts on “Take it away! (Phrasal verbs that use ‘take’)

  1. hi there

    i was wondering how you chose the take phrasal verbs you describe in this post?

    your readers may like to check out the PHaVE dictionary of the 150 most frequent phrasal verbs and their most common meanings [http://phave-dictionary.englishup.me/]

    for example they would find that there are 7 verbs with take (in order of most frequent to less):
    take on
    take out
    take off
    take over
    take up
    take down
    take in


  2. katewoodford

    Hi! that’s a very good question – thanks! I focused here on the sort of core phrasal verbs – or senses of phrasal verbs – that are either very high-frequency, or express very basic concepts. I wanted to pull together a set that are taught early on. I was a teacher for a while, so have some sense of this. I’ve also worked in dictionaries for many years so have considered the issue at some length and looked at corpus data to confirm or deny my native-speaker hunches. But there is inevitably an element of subjectivity and, of course, one could cast the net wider and include all sorts of interesting items. Hope that answers your question. Best wishes, Kate

  3. Ed RD

    Hi Cambridge Dictionaries:

    I just want to say thank you for help at the learners like me to improve our english. This is the best site to know new words with the right meaning. Thank you so much!.

  4. Oh…this post opened my mind. I’ve learned English language nearly 10 years but not yet consider learning phrasal verbs as many as i can. I didn’t know they’re extremely common and important.

    1. Dina Diab

      Thank you for your efforts!
      I’d like to ask you a Q. And that is, can I use “take in” as intransitive phrasal verb?
      For example which is the correct sentence from the 2 following ones
      1- he took me in with his sweet talking
      2- I was taken in by his sweet talking
      And is it “by” or “with”?
      Thnx in advance 🙂

      1. Kate Woodford

        Hi! Both of those sentences sound good and the prepositions are correct. By the way, the second is also transitive, but is passive. Best wishes.

  5. Pingback: Phrasal verbs | ELT Infodump

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