by Kate Woodford
Every few weeks, we focus on phrasal verbs that are formed with a particular verb. This week, we’re looking at phrasal verbs that start with the verb ‘go’. As ever, we present a range of the most useful and common phrasal verbs.
Some of the most common ‘go’ phrasal verbs are easy to understand because the ‘go’ part of the phrase has its usual meaning, which is ‘to move or travel somewhere’. When ‘go’ in a phrasal verb has its usual meaning, the other part, which is the particle, (away, off, out, etc.) also has its regular meaning. For this set of phrasal verbs, it is easy to work out what they mean:
She went away (= left) for a few days.
When are you going back (=returning) to Paris?
A pink sports car went by (=passed).
I looked in the shop window but I didn’t actually go in (= enter).
Helena went off (= left) about an hour ago.
Are you going out (= leaving your home to go somewhere else)?
However, many important ‘go’ phrasal verbs have meanings which are not so easy to guess. For example, if a piece of work goes ahead, it starts or happens: If the project goes ahead, we’ll need more staff. If something stops or disappears, it may be said to go away: That nasty smell seems to have gone away. We say that time goes by, meaning that it passes: Four or five days went by and still we didn’t hear from her. If the level of something increases, it is often said to go up: Food prices are going up all the time.
Of course, another feature of phrasal verbs is that they often have more than one meaning and this is true for ‘go’. Some ‘go’ phrasal verbs have two or more important meanings. For example, we may say that a bomb goes off, meaning that it explodes: The bomb went off in a crowded marketplace. We may also say that food or drink goes off, meaning that it stops being good to eat because it is too old: The milk’s gone off – it smells horrible! We also talk about a light or a machine going off, meaning that it stops working: The heating just went off.
Go on also has more than one important meaning. Something that goes on continues: The party was still going on at 3 o’clock this morning. Meanwhile, someone might ask ‘What’s going on?’ meaning, ‘what is happening?’: What’s going on? Why all the noise?
Finally, if you go through a difficult time, you suffer during it: He’s going through a hard time at work. If you go through a group of items, you look carefully through them, usually in order to find something: I went through all my papers but I couldn’t find the letter. Meanwhile, to go through a supply of something is to use it all: We’ve gone through three litres of milk today!