I’m just easing myself back into work (Phrasal verbs for describing how hard we are working or studying)

by Kate Woodford

beaverOne morning in early January, I met a friend in a café and told her that I was easing myself back into work after the holidays. By using this phrase ‘to ease myself (back) into work’, I meant that I was slowly starting to work again after a period without work (I planned to answer a few emails and get in touch with a couple of colleagues – not exactly hard work!). I added that I fully intended to knuckle down the following week, meaning that I planned to start working hard that week. Funnily enough, I could also have used the rhyming phrasal verb buckle down here, which means the same thing. After using these two phrases I started to think about all the other phrasal verbs that we use to describe how much or how little we are working or studying and decided to use this post to share them with you.

We use a number of slightly informal phrasal verbs to mean ‘to work or study hard and in a determined way’. For example, we might say that someone is plugging away or (UK) beavering away: I’ve been plugging away at this report all day, hoping to get it finished./She’s been beavering away at her essay since eight o’clock this morning. The particle ‘away’ here means ‘continuously, or in a busy way’ and is sometimes used after other informal verbs that mean ‘work’, such as slog, slave or (UK) graft to emphasize that someone is working hard for a long period: I’ve been slaving away all day./He’s been slogging away in his office./He’s spent so long grafting away on the same piece of work.

If the amount of work that we have to do is increasing a lot – perhaps because we haven’t been working enough recently – we might say it is piling up: Exams are approaching and the work is starting to pile up. If, after a period of too much work, the amount of work decreases a little so that we can now deal with it more easily, we might say it eases up or eases off: I’ve had too much work these last three months but it’s starting to ease off now.

If we have too little paid work for a period but then we start to get more work, we might say work is starting to pick up: Work was quite quiet for a period but, thankfully, it’s just starting to pick up.

What about you? Have you found it easy to knuckle down to work in 2016?

10 thoughts on “I’m just easing myself back into work (Phrasal verbs for describing how hard we are working or studying)

  1. Shraddha

    Hello Kate,
    Thanks for sharing.
    As a English language student here is a small request.
    I am very keen about the British Royal Family and the English they use in day to day life. Do they use the same English as that of common English speaker? Do they use very formal English while talking to their children?
    Can you please write about the special sentence forms or words used by them?
    Thank you.

  2. Marie

    hoi 😀 I live in Uk and I have never heard these verbs.
    I found very confusing that as a no native english, we are practically obliged to learn both of american and british english; when if you live in UK, it is useless to learn american phrasal verbs or expressions. I remember when beginning to learn english, I used 2 american phrasal verbs, nobody of my english friends understood 😦

  3. Pingback: I’m just easing myself back into work (Phrasal verbs for describing how hard we are working or studying) – English as lifestyle

  4. Pingback: Phrasal verbs | ELT Infodump

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